The Stone Carvers

Publisher: Emblem Editions
Set in the first half of the twentieth century, but reaching back to Bavaria in the late nineteenth century, The Stone Carvers weaves together the story of ordinary lives marked by obsession and transformed by art. At the centre of a large cast of characters is Klara Becker, the granddaughter of a master carver, a seamstress haunted by a love affair cut short by the First World War, and by the frequent disappearances of her brother Tilman, afflicted since childhood with wanderlust. From Ontario, they are swept into a colossal venture in Europe years later, as Toronto sculptor Walter Allward’s ambitious plans begin to take shape for a war memorial at Vimy, France. Spanning three decades, and moving from a German-settled village in Ontario to Europe after the Great War, The Stone Carvers follows the paths of immigrants, labourers, and dreamers. Vivid, dark, redemptive, this is novel of great beauty and power.

From the Hardcover edition.


There was a story, a true if slightly embellished story, about how the Ontario village was given its name, its church, its brewery, its tavern, its gardens, its grottoes, its splendid indoor and outdoor altars. How it acquired its hotel, its blacksmith’s shop, its streets and roads, its tannery, its cemetery, its...
Read More


1. Klara’s grandfather tells her that “Any work of art…must achieve sainthood before we set it free to roam in the world” [p 165]. The novel frequently relates art to spirituality. Father Gstir’s Corpus Christi procession, for example, unites Catholics and Protestants. Klara’s carved...

Read More


“The Great Canadian Novel.…An epic portrait of a nation’s birth.”
Ottawa Citizen

“Breathtaking. By the end of the book, Urquhart’s message about the inexorable human need to remember seems almost set in stone.”

“Magnificent.…A spellbinding tale.…”
Independent (U.K.)

“This book is not just delightful, but essential.…Extraordinarily rewarding.”
Globe and Mail

The Observer (U.K.)

“Sculptors are like lovers in this saga, awakening rock instead of flesh.…Urquhart powerfully evokes the wonders of stone and the carver’s art, always linking them to the human body.…The novel’s moving promise [is] that, if we are true to our gifts, we can at least strike a brief form from the obdurate stone of our fate.”

“Superb.…Urquhart clusters together momentous philosophical sentiments on such issues as aesthetics, mortality and memory in an epic prose that sweeps as far and wide as the Canadian geography.… She is a gifted storyteller.…[She] also writes of the most heart-rending ironies that have become part of our collective past.…Ultimately, Urquhart’s story, which is at once a romance drama, war epic and trail-blazing story of pioneers, speaks of the small actions – like the minute movements that make up the stone cutter’s craft – taken by individuals in the past that make our own future possible.”
Ottawa Citizen

“[Urquhart] has a mesmerizing ability to animate the past, calling up events and eras with extraordinary clarity and imbuing them with wonder and marvel.”
Quill & Quire

The Stone Carvers has the immediacy and wisdom of a folk tale.…Urquhart renders the texture and colour of such objects so vividly that they stick in the mind the way memories from early childhood do.…For sheer exuberance of style, The Stone Carvers recalls the riotous paintings of Marc Chagall in which human figures, wearing expressions of calm delight, soar over villages. Although people don’t defy gravity in The Stone Carvers, miracles do appear.… [The Stone Carvers] offers total enchantment.”
National Post

“A story with its own strong momentum, and undoubted emotional power.…”
Toronto Star

From the Hardcover edition.