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4.8 out of 5 stars1,169
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on 7 April 2014
A fascinating insight into the work of a neurosurgeon. The emotional and intellectual stress faced each day. Also the acute awareness of the cost of failure both to the patient and surgeon, and for the latter the profoundly upsetting .experience of seeing a patient, perhaps some time afterwards in a hospital bed an inert figure possibly very disabled and often unconscious who May have been in that state for some years. Henry Marsh shines through as a very caring individual, often wracked by the uncertainties of his daily professional life, and yet determined to help his patients, many of them friends because of the long term nature of his dealings with them. A human and passionate account and highly recommended reading
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on 18 April 2014
Now that Mr Henry Marsh has retired from brain surgery , he should really start to write-he is a very good storyteller.
He writes very well indeed the stories flow off the page. He tells us of his experiences from when he first started out in medicine to becoming a senior consultant in his field in a top hospital. It's great how he explains every type of brain tumour one can be afflicted with, how the operation takes place and how they are removed . It tells of his success stories , the ones that can't be helped and his tortured soul ,from where some procedures have failed and the awful consequences for him and his patient. It is a very good account of his life and I shall most certainly read it again sometime.
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on 2 April 2014
Honest, witty and an eye opener. Like the Max Pemberton books, you would take a lot more care of your health and fitness when you read honest accounts like this that highlight the human cost of our neglect and susequent expectation that doctors can fix anything. Coupled with a system of unrealistic targets, political correctness, health and safety and suffocating management practices it is a wonder anyone gets better when entering the health service machine. We are extremely fortunate in this country to have the services that we have, such a shame politicians bugger it all up. Brilliant book, loved the author's style and wish him well in the next stage of life saving work he is undertaking. Our loss dear man.
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on 28 February 2015
I am a Consultant working in the NHS and found as I read this book vague connections with my past as medical student In London where characters such as Mr Marsh were revered and their exploits often discussed in the student bar or doctors mess. His descriptions of encounters with patients and relatives should strike a chord with all practicing senior doctors. His story is truly one of extreme highs and lows and we all share the agonies of making the wrong decision at some point in our careers. How he, dare I say we get up after the huge lows, acknowledge our failures, learn from our mistakes and get back to treating patients is the hardest lesson to learn and cannot be taught in the lecture theatre.
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on 4 August 2015
Wonderful book by a wonderful, caring, self-deprecating human being and doctor. It should be compulsory reading for all medical students and for all patients who can bear to discover that their doctors are fallible human beings. Everyone would get much better treatment if they did!
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on 15 November 2014
An excellent read that provides an insight and overview of the life of a neurosurgeon.The highs, lows, triumphs and tragedies are all included, with moving accounts of the difficulties faced by the patients, families and those performing the procedures. The book is well written skillfully combining the science and technology with humanity and emotion. The author appears to provide an honest appraisal through considered reflection including self criticism Albeit one person's perspective on the NHS many healthcare professionals and indeed patients, will easily identify and probably despair at the bureaucracy and inept management in the examples cited that so characterize public services.
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on 1 June 2015
Being newly diagnosed with a brain tumour, I am hoovering up anything I can regarding insights into this diagnosis. Utterly compelling and written with compassion and humility. Reminding, but most importantly reassuring me, that my Consultant carries these thoughts also within him. Having also received medical training I can confirm that we do as patients, receive the blunt truth exactly in the manner described, that's perhaps why I was informed I had a brain tumour in the waiting room, much to the abject horror of the woman sat opposite me. For both patients pre and post op, and their families and carers, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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on 23 May 2014
What a phenomenal working life - to help people in distress but to be ready to take the blame if it all goes wrong...to pick up the scalpel and begin to operate is the bravest thing I have encountered. From the earliest surgeons to those working in the 21st Century - they are all the most courageous people you could ever meet.

This is an absolutely fascinating book, and one it's hard to put down. The decisions required as the surgeons do their work are crucial, but have to be taken calmly and with full recognition of the possible consequences. Not many folk have life-changing decisions to make every day, but this unassuming and humble man made me cry as I read the story of his work.
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on 18 January 2016
This is an extraordinary account of a celebrated brain surgeon’s career and thoughts pertaining to that as he nears retirement. It’s also something of a confessional – and the stakes dealt with are such that after reading this, the words ‘wreck’ and ‘catastrophe’ will take on a new violence and potency.

The work is split into chapters, the majority detailing a case with the context of its diagnosis, preparation and follow-up. You rarely, just as Henry Marsh doesn’t, find out what happens next, though. There is a curious sense of melancholy when realising this, which must be the faintest of echoes of what sensitive surgeons must feel every day.

Peppered throughout are insight into the surgeon’s home and family life and now and then you’ll get a glimpse of what drives him to lead what seems to be such a lonely and often dreadful life.

The writing is much better than I expected it to be, almost reaching a level of poetry at times, and this is because the writer’s passion for the brain is so obvious and almost childishness in the giddiness it inspires in him. In contrast to this, real life and all the red tape it entails appears to really frustrate him to a degree I can’t relate to. Happily, this book doesn’t degenerate into an old man complaining about a world that is advancing in unexpected directions and at rapid speed – he has the self-awareness to know that things always change for the better and worse and most of us are just along for the ride.

On that note, it was distressing to see on Amazon that a lot of reviewers have been using this book as smug ammunition to argue for/against state-run medicine. What a way to cheapen a book that, not just those interested in medicine, but those interested in humanity should treasure as a truly unique insight into a lifestyle that is glamorous and putrid in equal measure.
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on 31 December 2014
This is one of the most arresting books I have read in some years. It is a must for those who worship the NHS uncritically, for those who whinge about it with careless complacency; and especially for anyone bone headed enough to delude themselves with notions of homeopathy or other types of faith healing. For this is a book about the realities of medicine and medical practice, which can never be perfect, but is driven by people who essentially strive for the rest of us to make impossible decisions with terrifying consequences, and at the very least, to 'do no harm'.
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