In the Introduction to his memoir, Dr. Larkworthy relates the anecdote that provides the basis for his sub-title. There is no question that the author exhibits some "tribal" tendency; certainly in the best sense, because the memoir is laced with that famous understated, dry, British sense of humo(u)r; the cited anecdote being a prime example. His use of the term "un mariage d'amour" is another.
There are several reasons why I found this book enjoyable, and informative. There is the knowledge conveyed about medicine, always written in a way that no medical pre-requisites are required. Understandably, the common sniffles and assorted hypochondriac patients do not push the physician's "hot button." It is the weird, unusual cases, which physicians like to call "rich, clinical material" that are the ones worth remembering, and relating, and so Larkworthy does. In real estate, it is "location, location, location; as the author relates, in medicine, it is the "diagnosis, diagnosis, diagnosis." The physician has to first determine precisely what the problem is before a proper course of treatment can be prescribed. And that intellectual challenge, playing "detective" as the author says, is what makes the profession rewarding and interesting, which, in part, accounts for the popularity of the American TV show, "C.S.I." The memoir is also valuable since it relates the history of medicine, in the author's own lifetime, as well as before. Like as in the stock market, timing is all-important, and Dr. Larkworthy's professional career coincided with the invention of fiber optics, and its utilization in the medical field, which permitted the physician to actually SEE what the problem is, without cutting open the patient. The author became a leading practitioner in the endoscopic field.
The memoir is also the story of a physician taking "the path less travelled." There is no tedious and pedestrian climbing from one well-defined niche to another in the British medical establishment. He signed on for what would become a 20-year career in the Royal Air Force, seeing in Malaysia, inter alia, the final days of the British commitment to what they called "east of Suez," before another would-be empire would attempt a similar task. Seeing the "retrenchment" handwriting on the wall, he bailed from the RAF, and his parachuted landed him ever so gently in what he calls "the Magic Kingdom," Saudi Arabia. He worked at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh during the "early days" of the expatriate workforce in the Kingdom, the late `70's, early `80's. His observations of the times are authentic, unlike some other expat tales. This is all the more remarkable since he drew there one of the bad cards that can be dealt in life, running afoul of a megalomaniac who thought his powers were unlimited. There was nothing gentle about the author's exit from the Kingdom. His reaction to the final denouement of the megalomaniac seems generous; I don't know that I could have been as charitable. After his departure from the "magic," he went on to another 20-year portion of his career, running a highly successful and prominent clinic in the United Arab Emirates. In the process, Larkworthy relates the "future-shock" transformation of that country.
But why should any American, all too many of whom, famous for their deficient of geographic knowledge, are not able to find Butterworth or Aden or Qunfuddah on the map, read this autobiography? The flapping of a butterfly's wings in China, is the answer. That famous metaphor of the "chaos theory"; how seemingly distant and unrelated events can have a direct impact on one's life. For Larkworthy's life bisected that of one Bernie Kerik, who, to the utter astonishment, chagrin, and even fear, of anyone who knew him in the `80's, was nominated to be Director of Homeland Security by then President George Bush. When the phone call came from the Washington Post, Larkworthy could have said, "this is not my business what is going on in the former colonies," but no doubt because he inherited that gene from his father, who was a conscious objector during a very popular war, he decided to speak out, and tell the reporter all he knew about Kerik's background. Though his testimony was probably not decisive, since Kerik went on to replicate in New York City much of what he had done in Riyadh, it was still an important act. As of this writing, Kerik remains in jail, nailed, just like Al Capone, for income tax evasion, among other crimes.
There is much else in the book, and I now know that it was basic economic interest why the British are referred to as "limeys" and not "lemonys." Overall, reading this book is like being invited to his house for an eight hour lunch, and floating in the pool, just so a portion of the "rich clinical material" of his life can be related. Definitely 5-stars plus.