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The Stone Carvers Hardcover – May 13, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In her fifth novel, award-winning writer Jane Urquhart interweaves the sweeping power of big historical events with small but very moving personal stories. Klara Becker is the granddaughter of a woodcarver in German-settled southern Ontario. She has a love affair with a brooding, silent Irish lad who then goes off to fight, and die, in World War I. Meanwhile her older brother Tilman has literally snapped the ties that would have chained him to the family home, and vanished.

Of course, as in all great romantic epics, the two are destined to meet again. Tilman loses his leg in the war and experiences joyful belonging with an exuberant Italian immigrant family in industrial Hamilton, Ontario, before finally venturing home. Klara remains a spinster in her small town, sewing and working on and off for years on the figure of an abbess carved from wood. The novel culminates in the building of a huge stone monument to Canada's war dead in Vimy, France. Klara and Tilman are both compelled to visit the site of this insanely ambitious artistic obsession of real-life Canadian sculptor Walter Allward; both find that they have a personal struggle to overcome the past and learn to express love. Urquhart grasps her characters from outside and inside as precious few authors manage to do. She is, in her own way, a sculptor who carves a radiant and enduring tale from the elegant material of raw language. --Nigel Hunt

From Publishers Weekly

The bell-llike clarity of its prose initially masks the eloquent pathos of this Canadian bestseller by Urquhart (The Underpainter), which examines WWI through the experiences of siblings Klara Becker, whose first love, Eamon, enlists and never returns, and Tilman Becker, who loses one of his legs in the battle at Vimy Ridge in France. Their largely separate stories along with the evolution of Shoneval, their Ontario farming village form the core of this moving novel and converge in the 1930s, when the sister and brother travel to France to participate in the creation of Walter Allward's Vimy Memorial honoring some 11,000 Canadians missing in action after the Great War. Klara and Tilman share a knowledge of woodcarving, a legacy of their grandfather, a Shoneval pioneer. They end up putting their talents to work in the construction of the memorial and, in the process, rebuild their own damaged lives. The panorama of WWI serves as a powerful backdrop for Klara and Tilman's finely drawn, heartfelt stories and gives Urquhart the canvas on which to depict mature, sophisticated themes. Urquhart charts the collapse of the pastoral ideal an agrarian prewar Canada lured into the conflicts of Europe, losing a generation of young men as a result but her bigger theme is the possibility of redemption, achieved with great struggle, through love and through art. These are familiar premises, but Urquhart's deft, poetic prose and psychological acuity make this a stirring look at one of the signal events of the 20th century.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st American ed edition (May 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670030449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670030446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #986,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As historical fiction, Jane Urquhart's new book "The Stone Carvers" had the same immense impact for me that Taylor Caldwell's "Dear and Glorious Physician" did many years ago. There are several good summaries of the plot above, so I won't go into that here. (I will say that the character of Tilman reminded me so much of Mary in Urquhart's "Away", though!) I've been fortunate to read lots of good Canadian literature recently such as "From Bruised Fell" by Jane Finlay-Young and "A Good House" by Bonnie Burnard. Although I was given "The Stone Carvers" as a gift in November, it was only recently, after finishing "What's Bred in the Bone" by Robertson Davies and wanting more good Canadian literature, that it felt like the time to read this. And it was. Once begun, I could not bear to put this book down each night. The characters' humanness and deeply felt emotions, like those in Urquhart's "Away", got under my skin and I could not wait to find out what happened as the story moved along. This book is intelligent in a way not many are these days, directly addressing the longings of the heart. In my estimation, you can't go wrong reading this book. After reading "Away", I had a deep longing to visit Ireland and Wales; now, having just read "The Stone Carvers", a visit to the monument at Vimy seems inevitable too. I love the quote from the review above about the redemptive nature of art - this book itself proves that to be true. Enjoy!
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By A Customer on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading this book. It brought back memories of my family's experience as immigrants to Canada and the culture we brought with us as artists and art lovers. The story of Vimy Ridge was extraordinary and in my opinioin was one of the most significant parts of the book. Most Canadians know little if anything about this WW1 historic event. This book would be an excellent read for all high school English and History students. As an artist I found the text revealing and meaningful.
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Format: Hardcover
Jane carved this book, as it builds towards its moving climax slowly - very slowly at times. A great history lesson and in a sense, history within history. The Stone Carvers reveals one of what surely are a thousand small but significant tales woven deeply within the larger conflict of World War One. Very satisfying.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was the first I've read of Jane Urquhart's novels. I read reviews about it here on Amazon before I read the book, and I was worried that I would find it too long as some reviews suggested, but I loved it. I didn't find it long at all. In fact I couldn't put it down! I took it with me everywhere, even to the golf course! Ha. The descriptions of the work that went into the stone and wood carving performed in the book made me want to go out and buy a set of carving tools. Today I went out and bought two more of her books; Away and The Underpainter. I'm hoping I will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this one.
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Format: Paperback
Klara Becker had decided to live like a spinster. Although still young, she doesn't expect any more from life: tending the animals on her inherited farm, sewing clothes for the villagers to earn a little extra money, and burying the memories of love and loss, until... She is unquestionably Jane Urquhart's heroine in this wonderfully rich and absorbing novel about deep emotions, drive and determination. Set in the nineteen thirties, against the continuing aftermath of the most devastating historical event of the early twentieth century, World War I, the author by concentrating on intimate portraits of her protagonists brings to life the personal challenges ordinary people faced during these difficult times.

The novel is structured into three distinct sections, focusing in turn on Klara, her brother Tilman and the construction of the Canadian War Memorial in Vimy, northern France. Klara's character comes to life primarily through her own observations and inner reflections. The depth of her emotional being that stands in sharp contrast to her external "spinster" persona, is exquisitely evoked in Urquhart's lyrical language. The following quote gives a taste of it: "When one embraces a moment of rapture from the past, either by trying to reclaim it or by refusing to let it go, how can its brightness not tarnish, turn grey with longing and sorrow, until the wild spell of the remembered interlude is lost altogether and the memory of sadness claims its rightful place in the mind?..."

In this section, the narrative moves easily between the thirties and the late eighteen eighties when Klara's grandfather, master woodcarver Joseph Becker, immigrated from Bavaria to southwestern Ontario in search for a new life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read Urquharts "Away" prior to the Stone Carvers. I had been so impressed with Away, loved it actually, that I feared another book could never live up to Away. As in Away, the Stone Carvers is set on two continents, first Canada and then France. The author truly takes you there. I felt as though I were living in a wilderness Canadian village, and then standing on a plain, in front of an enormous monument in France.

It was a book that stayed with me and that I continue to think about. (This happens too seldom) I slowly realized that whereas Away was all about the characters, the Stone Carvers is actually about art and handicraft.. Although the human characters are important, what remained with me were the perfect bell, the stone church, the red vest, the obsession with wood carving, the obsession with perfection, the movement from wood carving to stone carving,(until then I kept wondering why the book was titled the Stone Carvers) and the brooding overwhelming final work of art. The strong female character, the great love affairs, the wandering brother, were important, but secondary, background themes to the fascination with and the love of art. Also, Urquharts love of her native Canada comes through just as strongly in this novel as in the prior one. We learn so much about a small part of Canada, and have to admire the settlers in the late 1800's and early 1900's who were willing to battle this climate in a wilderness for a home of their own.

The theme of "wandering" in both books intrigues me and makes me wish I could sit down with the author and ask her if she has every experienced someone like this in her own life. In Away the the need to be near a large body of water makes the heroine leave her husband, son and baby.
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