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Bodies [Paperback]

Jed Mercurio
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Mar 2002

Inside every hospital exists a world no outsider has been allowed to see, not even the young men and women who arrive there to begin careers in medicine. They think it's going to be like TV, and pretty soon they wish it was, because instead they're surrounded by death, disease and suffering and their only outlets are pitch-black humour and urgent, visceral sex.

Into this world plunges an idealistic young doctor. But as one harrowing ordeal follows another his relationship with patients and colleagues becomes increasingly cynical and he finds escape in a purely physical relationship with a student nurse. Then something happens that shocks him into seeking redemption, but he can gain it only by challenging the most powerful institutions of medicine.

Written by a former doctor, Bodies is a novel of almost unbearable power and intensity, an urgent despatch from the frontline of hospital life. It is also a moving portrait of the loss of innocence, the healing power of sexual love, and of a young man's quest for redemption in a world that long ago lost its sense of right or wrong.

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Paperback Edition edition (7 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061971
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.6 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,030,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jed Mercurio is a novelist who regularly works in TV as a writer, producer and director. His books are Bodies (2002), Ascent (2007), American Adulterer (2009) and, for children, the Penguin Expedition (2003). He grew up in England and currently splits his work between London and Los Angeles.

Mercurio trained at the University of Birmingham Medical School and practised as a junior hospital doctor for three years. While still a medical student, he joined the Royal Air Force and received extensive flying training, with the intention of specialising in aviation medicine. Instead, after replying to an advertisement placed in the British Medical Journal, Mercurio detoured into writing the controversial, ground-breaking BBC medical drama Cardiac Arrest (under the pseudonym John MacUre). The show was a gritty and blackly comic expose of hospital life. Mercurio went from never having written a script to creating a primetime hit.

Next he created and scripted the 6-hour miniseries Invasion: Earth, a coproduction between the BBC and the US Sci-Fi Channel, followed by The Grimleys. The Grimleys was a rites-of-passage comedy set in the Midlands in the 1970s; starring Brian Conley, Amanda Holden and Noddy Holder, it ran for three series on ITV. As well as creating and writing the Grimleys, Mercurio directed seven episodes.

Mercurio returned to dark medical fiction with his first novel, Bodies, published by Jonathan Cape (2002). He adapted the novel for TV, winning the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series of 2005. Bodies dealt unflinchingly with issues of negligence, cover-ups and whistleblowing. In December 2009 the Times ranked Bodies #9 TV Show of the Decade and in January 2010 it was ranked #20 Best TV Drama of All Time by the Guardian.

After writing a children's book, The Penguin Expedition, Mercurio's second novel, Ascent, was published by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Simon and Schuster (US) in 2007 and made the Guardian's list of "1000 Novels Everyone Must Read". Ascent tells the story of a fictional Soviet fighter pilot, later cosmonaut, set against the background of the Korean War and the Space Race. A graphic novelization of Ascent, illustrated by Wesley Robins, was published in 2011.

Mercurio wrote and directed a modern-day television film of Frankenstein, starring James Purefoy, Helen McCrory and Lindsay Duncan, and then adapted Chris Ryan's "Strike Back" into a successful series for Sky. His most recent television production, "Line of Duty", a police corruption drama series, was broadcast in 2012 to critical acclaim; the programme achieved the highest ratings for a BBC2 drama in ten years, and has been commissioned for a second series to be filmed in 2013.

Jed Mercurio's most recent novel for Cape and Simon & Schuster was American Adulterer, a fictionalization of President John F. Kennedy's personal life, published in Spring 2009.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The unnamed narrator of Jed Mercurio's Bodiesis a newly qualified house officer in a busy city hospital. He arrives with his ideals intact and a vision of what his career in medicine will be. Within a short time the relentless procession of sick and damaged patients, the long, wearying hours he is obliged to work, the cynicism of his colleagues and the constant presence of death and disease take their toll. His idealism vanishes. He looks the other way when senior doctors are negligent or treat patients with contempt. He suffers guilt when a terrible mistake of his own is routinely covered up. His only escape is an intense sexual relationship with a student nurse. Sex is as clinically described in Bodiesas the indignities that age and accident inflict on the body. Mercurio wants to replace the melodrama of TV hospital series in which square-jawed doctors and glamorous nurses battle heroically against sickness and disease. In order to do so, he spares the reader few of the physical details that accompany illness and the body's disintegration. In pursuit of realism he peppers his text with medical slang and jargon, carefully annotated and explained in footnotes. What he has produced, however, is not realism but an inverted version of the melodrama. Instead of everything finally turning out well, the reader knows that, in this novel, everything will turn out very badly indeed. In place of square-jawed doctors saving the sick, Mercurio gives us drug-popping cynics exchanging the blackest of banter over dying patients. Melodrama it may be but, as the book's narrator seeks redemption by turning whistle-blower on hospital practices, it is very gripping melodrama.--Nick Rennison


"Gritty, realistic and funny." (Daily Mail)

"The strongest fiction I have read all year." (Evening Standard)

"Funny, galling, painful and terrifying in all the right places... I couldn't put it down." (Julie Myerson Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Wow, I could not put this down. As a medical student and a part time healthcare assistant I am aware of two views of the medical profession and found this book to be very accurate in terms of interstaff relationships and attitude. The thoughts and inexperience of the newly qualified doctor are vividly portrayed, although this may scare some medical students (and members of the general public) having experienced working in a hospital myself I feel these should serve only to prepare for what is to come, not to put students off. The book is also very accessable to the general public as all specialised terms are explained and the story is great, enough to maintain interest without full knowledge of every procedure involved.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No more 'authentic' than any of the soaps 24 Mar 2003
The scariest thing about this book is the final sentence on the back-cover blurb: "...(a) disturbingly authentic dispatch from the frontline of hospital life". Jed Mercurio has made a name for himself by tapping into the recognition that hospital soaps used to portray a one-sided, glamorous view of hospital life, and deliberately portraying the other side: medical blunders, cover-ups, callous doctors etc. This does not make his book 'authentic'. Rather, it is equally one-sided - he presents a view that is jaundiced, pessimistic and ulimately hopeless. Just as the soaps cram far more heroism into hospital life than really occurs, so he crams far more lethal negligence and cynicism than really occurs. For most of us in the NHS, the truth lies somewhere between: we have seen (and perhaps made) both disastrous blunders and strokes of life-saving genius, amidst long stretches of routine; we have felt both despair and pride. Dr Mercurio's book may be authentic for him, but I find it hard to imagine he is in a majority.
The medicine itself is not always authentic either. I don't know of any NHS hospital (and I've worked in a few) where the medical SHO prescribes for and extubates patients on ICU. And as for a patient waking up immediately after a twenty-minute cardiac arrest (due to 'massive MI') - well, it could be straight off Holby City. Like a previous reviewer, I found the footnotes excessive. Maybe a non-medical reader would find them valuable, but even he/she would probably have spotted something wrong with Dr Mercurio's definition of the 'mons vaginis'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. 24 May 2002
By A Customer
Anyone who saw "Cardiac Arrest" would have a good idea what to expect. This is incredibly accurate; it encapsulates the entire ethos of hospital life. I can't understand why other reviewers say it isn't true to life - maybe not every hospital all the time - but everything is verifiable, even down to patients being referred to by their condition. It happens! Utterly brilliant. If you don't like it, watch "Casualty" instead. Quick Nurse, the screens!
It's about time that Colin Douglas's books were reissued - along similar lines but lighter.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave New World? 30 Mar 2006
With the current crop of television soap operas ranging from the bathetic Holby City to the hyperbolic E.R., there is nothing in the media that truly reflects the nature of hospital medicine, nothing to tell it like it really is.
Welcome then, Jed Mercurio, a former doctor himself, delivering his own sharp commentary of life as a junior doctor at an NHS Hospital. With tones that clearly resonate of Samuel Shek's House of God, Mercurio offers readers a home brand of punchy writing with no less muck and grime.
Mercurio's nameless narrator journeys through the hospital, its corridors filled with corruption and cynicism, in search of an ideal world where patients improve and doctors romance nurses. Instead he encounters unbridled mendacity, botched medical errors and suffers his own relationship problems with his 'civilian' girlfriend. As readers, we gain insight into the narrator's internal moral, and emotion turmoil and see how this is translated not just physically (his childhood eczema resurfacing) but also into his work environment.
This book attempts to counter the deification of the medical profession and highlights the human nature of doctors, and how sometimes, even they make mistakes too. In an era of 'Fitness to Practise' it is also refreshing to see the author highlight the oft under mentioned issue of whistle-blowing.
On the upside, this book is a thoroughly entertaining yet chillingly accurate portrayal of less than perfect hospital life. With its easily accessible style, it serves as a potential warning to all medical students as to what the 'real world' of medicine is truly like, guts and all.
The only possible downside? It's been commissioned for a BBC Television Series
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sanctimonious twaddle 2 Feb 2009
Thoroughly mean-spirited and unrealistic in every way. Mercurio clearly hated his time as a junior doctor, and it's probably for the best he bailed out of his profession when he did. Though why he has to subject readers to share this misery is beyond me.

Being a quack myself, it's insulting to read such cynicism about the NHS. Too much medical jargon, not one scrap of humour, no redeeming characters. Only because i parted with cash for this effort did i bother to finish it. And then I chucked it.

Try Max Pemberton's effort instead - more humour, fun, and a damn sight more realistic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for the serious reader.
This is an excellent read. I picked up the book after seeing the TV series ( a must see for any series viewer) .
Published 8 days ago by David Bailie
1.0 out of 5 stars Meh
Really didn't enjoy this book. I couldn't connect with the characters and found I couldn't care less how the story unfolded. Glad I bought a cheap second hand copy. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Cheryl
3.0 out of 5 stars Do not read this if you are due in hospital
Not sure I can say I enjoyed this book, but it was difficult to put down. Gives a bleak picture of the NHS, and some insight into a range of awful situations, which surely cannot... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Marj
3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow disappointed
Interesting book, specially if you are a medicine student. It could use some corrections, though. It lacks some punctuation marks so it can be confusing at times.
Published 14 months ago by Joan
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling insight into hospital's life
The book is fascinating and fast-paced and tells us about the weary, hectic, and drawn out life of a junior hospital doctor. The hospital scenes are realistic and gripping. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dona Rendell
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writer
Mercurio's books are tightly written, well structured and good at suspense. As an ex-doctor, Mercurio shows his terrific knowledge of the subject matter in this book and leaves the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Mrs. P. Mann
5.0 out of 5 stars its just a bit of fun
It never ceases to amaze me how offended people can be by a work of fiction.
This is rollicking good fun.
Its bleak, dark and unpleasant , but that`s half the fun. Read more
Published on 25 Jan 2012 by Dr. Michael J. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating reading
I really enjoyed this book. It gives a very sympathetic view of the dilemmas faced by a young doctor and the complexities of his private life. Read more
Published on 2 Feb 2009 by N. Stockford
4.0 out of 5 stars Potential med students, read this book!!
I'm going to be a med student soon and like to read around the subject albeit in fact or fiction. As soon as i started reading the book i was hooked and couldn't put it down. Read more
Published on 29 July 2008 by Adam Stanton
4.0 out of 5 stars Bodies
Great book. I loved the series on TV & after having read this book I was searching for a sequel to follow the TV series but there doesn't appear to be 1 yet. Excellent. Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2006 by Nicky Jayson
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