The Stone Carvers. Jane Urquhart .

Urquhart, Jane. The Stone Carvers. McClelland and Stewart Toronto 2001. F; December 2010.

This is a beautiful book, but I would also say a “beautiful book” in the sense that the author sees herself as a “beautiful writer”. Now at times I loved the story, it was organized and rendered impressively, building always to something unexpected, and I cried twice at the emotional climaxes. I’m also now going to make a special trip next time I’m inFrance to see the Canadian war Memorial at Vimy. The historic character of the master carver of the monument is very good, and his successes and failures true-to-life for me. But where it’s pure fiction, the book falls short. If you like Middlemarch and Bleak House, you may not have the same problems as I had with this one. I excuse my lack of diligence by calling myself a “modern reader”, somebody who would find this, well, tedious in places.

Those places are not the descriptions of the marble in the monument or the Canadian countryside (which are quite lovely) but those of working through over and over again the emotional landscape the characters traverse, and that we have to find out about them traversing. In the end we reluctantly conclude that the author may stumble a bit attempting that kind of rockclimbing herself. It’s in other words the kind of unintentional disclosure I don’t think George Eliot would be caught dead making. And then there’s that sticky maple syrup finish. 7.3/6.4

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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