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The Good Doctor [Kindle Edition]

Damon Galgut
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
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  • Length: 240 pages
  • Word Wise: Enabled
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Book Description

WINNER OF THE COMMONWEALTH WRITERS' PRIZE & Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

A powerful, taut and intense tale of a friendship overshadowed by betrayal, set against the tawdry hopes and disappointments of a post-apartheid South Africa.

When Laurence Waters arrives at his new post at a deserted rural hospital, staff physician Frank Eloff is instantly suspicious. Laurence is everything Frank is not-young, optimistic, and full of big ideas. The whole town is beset with new arrivals and the return of old faces. Frank reestablishes a liaison with a woman, one that will have unexpected consequences. A self-made dictator from apartheid days is rumored to be active in cross-border smuggling, and a group of soldiers has moved in to track him, led by a man from Frank's own dark past. Laurence sees only possibilities-but in a world where the past is demanding restitution from the present, his ill-starred idealism cannot last.

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"'One of the best and weirdest novels I have read in a long while. From the first page the reader is gripped. There are traces of J. M. Coetzee and Graham Greene but Damon Galgut is a true original.' Geoff Dyer; 'Galgut writes like a man on a long fast night drive through bad places. You're in the front passenger seat but you would rather be in the back. You could get out but you don't. And you see things you would rather forget. It's brilliant.' Dermot Healy; 'A truly remarkable novel, steeped in contemporary history, yet at the same time transcending it. I was enthralled by its intensity and the immediacy of every small twist and turn of the story' Andre Brink"

The Guardian

‘Galgut seems the most likely of the crop of young South African novelists to fill J.M. Coetzee’s shoes.’

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Youthful Optimism vs Middle Aged Cynicism 8 Oct. 2003
Galgut's novel evokes the stark landscape of rural post-apartheid South Africa. But do not let the daunting subject matter scare you away. This is a highly accessible novel written in simple, but eloquent prose. It's told from the point of view of middle-aged Frank Eloff who is an under-achieving doctor that has spent many years of his life at a remote hospital waiting to be promoted. He begins the tale when an enthusiastic young doctor named Laurence joins the hospital as part of a required year of training. The two are required to share a room. A uncomfortable friendship blossoms. Laurence is determined to use his time at the hospital to make some radical changes as part of the new South Africa he welcomes. Frank however isn't so certain that the old South Africa has entirely left. Through the novel they are confronted by unavoidable people and problems from the past which slow the progress Laurence so ardently desires.
It's a literary work that contemplates the dilemma of the new South Africa with the same brevity as Gordimer's None to Accompany Me and Coetzee's Disgrace. Apart from the political connotations, this novel is a powerful and haunting tale about friendship and a man coming to terms with his middle age. It echoes the disturbing quality of Ibsen's Ghosts through its repetition of sexual betrayal. Toward the end of Frank's narrative, his accounts become more hallucinatory and his honesty becomes uncertain. A tremendous guilt overshadows his narrative. There is a desire to shake the complacency of the environment, yet any attempt at progress instantly proves futile. This is a very melancholy novel, but one of captivating beauty and intriguing mystery.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and sparse writing 29 Nov. 2003
By A Customer
This is an excellent book. The writing is very good and its simplicity hides a great depth of feeling. It reminded me of the writing of the Japanese author, Murakami, where we are given hints of what is happening but are left in the dark as to its exact workings out. The main character holds his secrets well but is very complex, thus making you want to read on to see what his eventual fate will be. Somehow, like the best plays, it takes you to a level of carthasis and leaves you wondering about it for a long time after you've closed the last page.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Coetzee Now! 29 Sept. 2003
I have followed Galgut's writing since 'A Sinless Season' appeared when he was but 17 years old, and this book is a triumph, far more entertaining than J.M. Coetzee's ramblings at the moment. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it stands, I think, a good chance to win.
In an unnamed bush 'hospital' somewhere in South Africa, a complacent doctor is steadily more thrown off balance and morally confused after the arrival there of a younger, more idealistic member of staff, and, later, of a figure from the narrator's past. To relate more here would spoil the reading experience, which had me glued to my chair until I had turned the last page. Suffice it to say that Galgut has the rare ability to write 'literary' fiction which is taut and utterly compelling.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I just had to review this book when I read the other (negative) reviews of Galgut's wonderful novel. Were we reading the same book? I absolutely loved it. No, it's not a tense thriller, but then I don't think that's what the author is trying to achieve. It has a wonderfully subtle plot to keep you gripped, but where this book really scored for me was in the writing. Galgut has created a compelling character in Laurence Waters (the 'Good Doctor'). Throughout the novel I willed Waters to be a better man than he was, to make me like him more, but he continually seemed capable only of curtailing his own happiness, revealing little of himself to the other characters in the book.
Perhaps this is what some other reviewers did not get when reading this book. Galgut shows extraordinary vision in his portrayal of a flawed man who doesn't want or need to be liked. This is not weak characterisation by the author!
If you want a fast paced book with twists in every chapter read a thriller. This book is all about the writing, and Galgut thoroughly deserved his Man Booker shortlisting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I became engrossed in this book. 22 Sept. 2012
By ronix
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Good Doctor - Damon Galgut

"The first time I saw him I thought, he won't last"

Frank Eloff, a doctor who has left his mainstream practice after his marriage breaks up takes up a position at an isolated, understaffed hospital in one of the old Bantustans. He keeps himself busy by doing the minimum amount of work. His world is turned on his head when Lawrence Waters arrives to do his community service after qualifying as a doctor.

Damon Galgut captures the everyday life in this little outpost through beautiful prose. It's a story that must be read, for no other reason than for the beauty of the language and how Damon has managed to get the prose to express the sheer nothingness of the place where this little abandoned hospital with its group of strangers must live & share their lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weak nominee for the Man Booker Prize 17 Jun. 2005
Quotes on the back cover and my responses:-

"Tense and involving" ? I say: Not for me
"An absorbing story" ? I say: No, it isn't
"A brilliant literary thriller" ? I say: It might be set in Africa, but you must be having a giraffe!
"Life-altering?" I say: Oh come on, that's just absurd

I had expected this to be reasonably good however, given its MAN Booker Prize nomination, instead it left me wondering about the standard of writing of the books that DIDN`T get nominated - they must have been pretty bad ! This is just passable pulp, a paper-thin story involving mostly uninteresting characters and with dark undertones of post-apartheid that I'm guessing may only really be understood by those who have lived and experienced that way of life. The central character (not the Good Doctor by the way) was, to me, a man of little character at all and the only time I found myself interested in anything to do with him was during his brief visit to his rich and powerful father. As for the Good Doctor himself, well, he was initially portrayed as something of an enigma but as the story progressed he became more and more ordinary and his idealistic attempts at nobility proved anti-climactic at best. I believe that the real message of this book, assuming there is one, will only be appreciated by anyone who lives (or has lived) in or near to South Africa.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but I didn't enjoy it
This is another one of those books that features in 1001 books to read before you die. I try to read a couple of them every year just in case I'm missing something splendid, put... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, but true
A very touching story. I was never surprised at what was happening - it reinforced my feelings about the nature of human nature. Sad, but true.
Published 5 months ago by Pam Gibson .Pam Gibson
2.0 out of 5 stars Es-SIS-tentialist medics, men!
It starts off well and by the middle seems likely to become very interesting but the promise of a plot falls to bits and I just wasn't sure how to take the situation and the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mick
1.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as expected
Not a book I could get into I did not finish reading it
Published 7 months ago by carole lundy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Lovely book ! Thought provoking
Published 8 months ago by Ann Byrne
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Doctor a story without an end
A window on a life of a white doctor working in the African Homelands - beautifully written, cleverly evoking a world that is foreign to many but becomes familiar through the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jane Wighton
5.0 out of 5 stars Lindab
This is an unusual tale but very honest and endearing. I really enjoyed the mix of personalities and could actually envisage being there in the wilderness which is the setting for... Read more
Published 11 months ago by LindaB
1.0 out of 5 stars Greatly overrated.
Dull, prosaic, formulaic, poorly written.
Published 11 months ago by Andrew Anderson
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!
I'm giving two stars for the time it took to write, but both the plot and characters were disappointing. Kept waiting for something to happen.......
Published 13 months ago by Bonny
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
I could not find anything to really like about this book. There is hardly any plot, which does not usually bother me, but that was not compensated by interesting characters, or... Read more
Published 15 months ago by anonymous
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