43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2001
This part autobiography, part fictional book is a collection of stories from Bulgakov's experiences as a young, inexperienced doctor in pre-revolution rural Russia. As a new graduate, often still mistaken for a younger boy, Bulgakov conveys his neurotic state with a mixture of images and schizophrenic dialogue with himself. It is so difficult to understand the isolation he feels, to imagine being "32 miles from the nearest electric light." and being responsible for the lives of so many people who flood through his doors. A great deal of the narrative takes place during dark nights, howling winds and blizzards. Its purpose is multifarious; it makes the whole setting more dramatic and allows the hospital to be a prick of light surrounded be darkness, a ray of hope for all around. I feel it also intensifies the isolation. The stresses and strains of such a predicament can take their toll on such a green professional can clearly be seen in the tale named "Morphine". I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would firmly recommend it to anyone. I read "A Country Doctor's Notebook" while looking for a book to write an essay on and this was the eventual winner, beating books of all genres - from Banks to Balzac. I can think of no higher praise.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2004
I stumbled upon this book by chance when I was browsing the "bargain books" in the one and only English bookstore in Strasbourg. The book is about a young Russian doctor's 1st year as a country doctor in the Northwest part of Russia. It is a collection of many short stories. The writing reflects the author's ability as a play writer - good use of "visual" and "audio" effects such as the description of the weather (which seems to be constantly in a winter blizzard and in the dark) as well as the "tightness" of the writing. The author did not throw out ineffective big words/long sentences to describe the state of mind of the main character in the book, but let the short stories tell the story of the changes which took place inside the young doctor. I could not stop reading until I finished. Advice: do not start reading this book on Sunday evening...
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2009
This is a fantastic book - a perfect read for anyone interested in Russia. Written by Mikhail Bukgakov, one of Russia's leading writers, it tells a story of a young doctor who is sent to the Russian provinces to practice medicine there.
It's a wonderfully observant account of life in rural Russia complete with almost complete lack of medical knowledge among the locals. Just to give you an example a man complains to his friends, that the young doc isn't that great as he came to see him with throat pain and now he is being hospitalised and has to take loads of medicine and even has to smear onself with a cream everywhere! What he doesn't understand of course is that he has syphilis.
The stories are written from the first person, which makes them even more engaging. And no wonder, Bulgakov, like Chekhov, a doctor himself, had all the nessesary insights into the medical profession in Russia.
A must read!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This is Bulgakov's own personal journey as a doctor recently graduated and sent to the countryside to practice. This is something that is still common in a number of developing countries and is used both to even up the social balance of city and country and also to provide medical care to those who otherwise would have to do without.
Bulgakov is dispatched and displays all the idealism of a young doctor mixed with the pessimism's of a man who is being sent far from home and the comforts of the city to a place that may as well be a foreign country.
Bulgakov in his usual quiet way exposes the ignorance of the common people and often the incompetence of his own skill. The stories he retells here are both moving and touching, peasants who when given medicine apply it to their outer clothing rather than the skin, a hospital staff who medical skill leaves a lot to be desired.
Bulgakov is humorous as usual and while providing the reader with a book that judging by the cover may be slow and tedious is in fact fast paced, and will leave the reader laughing at times and in disbelief in others.
A wonderful book that should be read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2009
I had already read and loved The Master and Margarita when I first saw this book. I was stood in a second hand book shop in Stratford upon Avon and I read 2 pages of this book, utterly captivated I wanted to buy it but had no cash so reluctantly put it back. When I finally got hold of it I was once again charmed by Bulgakov's work. I've since read his other readily available works and I have to say this book, with it's insight into early 19th century rural Russia is one of the man's best. Buy this, you won't regret it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2010
These short stories show Bulgakov at the threshold of his talent and are worth reading but not of the standard of his wonderful read "The Master and Marguerita".
If you have a friend about to embark on a country practice this collection is a must! If only to set the young intern on a path of doubt!! I wish talented authors interspersed humour with reality more often as too often gifted writers stick to gloomy themes. Bulgakov has talent in abundance and interposes wit with dark realism.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2012
Sometimes serendipity plays a role in the book that you have chosen to read. A day or two after I picked up this book of short stories from the shelf, I spotted in the underground an advertisement for a TV show featuring none other than Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. The show called A Young Doctor's Notebook is based on this very book I am just about to write about. Apparently both Hamm and Radcliffe are HUGE fans of Bulgakov; the former singlehandedly drove the TV project forward while the latter even went on a Bulgakov pilgrimage to Russia on his 21st birthday! [...]
Across town, Complicite's stage version of The Master and Margarita is returning to the Barbican - while I missed it the first time, I don't plan to this time. I've seen a couple of other stage versions of Bulgakov's works - the splendid National Theatre production of The White Guard a few years ago, and at the other end of the scale, Moliere at the Finborough, as bijou as the NT show was grand. I wish I'd known my Red Revolution and Civil War history a little better BEFORE I saw The White Guard but I had to wait for a few years and Mr Bruce Lincoln to put that to rights. But better late than never, as they say.
What's charming about this particular book is the self-deprecation, the ironic humour of the young narrator. Bulgakov is just a callow young doctor straight out of medical school when he is farmed out to Muryovo, a village based on a real-life posting in the western borderlands where Mother Russia melts away into Belarus and Ukraine. Here the doctor, with grim determination scooped out of despair, fights the forces of darkness, ignorance and superstition, usually represented by the elemental forces of nature: driving snow, fierce storms, relentless blizzards. On the doctor's side are the puny but indomitable causes of science, reason and enlightenment - a solitary lamp shining in Bulgakov's room, another stubborn one hanging outside his small village hospital.
There are early victories - a successful amputation, a windpipe replacement for a diphtheria-stricken child, a complicated delivery, even a plague of syphilis. Each of these ills the young doctor counters with cussedness, competence, humility and a little luck. The results surprise him as much as they win the admiration and custom of villagers for miles around. At the end of the first year, he has seen no fewer than 15,613 patients, and by that time the outside world - the above mentioned revolution and civil war - has started to impinge on this rural anti-idyll. The names of Kerensky and Petliura appear, the same Kerensky who is buried in a parish church in southwest London, just a few miles from where I am typing this.
This is, in sum, a lovely book by a fine writer, told in the most attractive of narrative voices, and one that will transport you to the vanished rural Russia that the Bolsheviks wrestled away from the Tsars and the Whites. Bring on the TV show and the booming book sales!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2012
I am a young doctor and this is the best book i have ever received as a present.
In just 80 pages or so plunges you in what it used to be the profession 100 years ago, it is an AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a young doctor sent in the middle of nowhere in Russia around the Bolshevik revolution in 1918. The feelings of the newly graduated doctor, alone in front of the decision that can bring life or death to your patient....it is something all doctors have gone through.
And it makes you feel good to realize that...behind the appearances......to feel unsecure, not adeguate...is actually a very common reaction that will disappear with time.
It leaves you the feeling that after all...you can be a good doctor too one day, even if you feel an idiot sometimes.
on 15 January 2013
Like the Russian weather, Russian novels have a reputation for inducing fear and respect in equal measure.
Anyone who's ever tackled a tome such as Dostoyevsky's `Crime and Punishment' or Grossman's `Life and Fate' will testify that such works of art require patience and perseverance. But the experience is always rewarding and well worth the effort.
But if you've never read a `heavy' classic and would like a gentler literary introduction to the beautiful, enigmatic and captivating land of Russia, there's plenty on offer.
`A Country Doctor's Notebook' is one example of an accessible, short and enjoyable Russian read that has stood the test of time.
Written by Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), the book reflects the author's experience as a young doctor in pre-revolutionary Russia and is largely semi-autobiographical.
A Country Doctor's Notebook gives an account - through a series of short chapters - of a trainee doctor in the rural Russia. Through beautiful writing, the author conveys rich images of the Russian countryside, where the snow-covered landscapes are dotted with remote villages and life has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
In this austere land of biting blizzards, peasants relied on superstition - and vodka - as allies in their daily battle for survival. It's no surprise therefore, that Bulgakov had plenty of rich material to draw from in writing his book.
But in `A Country Doctor's Notebook', there's not room for sentimentality. The author portrays life in the raw, where a person's existence hangs in the balance. And even a doctor is not guaranteed safety from the travails of rural Russia.
In one harrowing chapter, simply entitled `Morphine', Bulgakov describes a fictional young Dr Polyakov and his descent into drug addiction. The hapless Polyakov first experiments with morphine, then cocaine before returning back to morphine. But neither drug brings any peace of mind.
In this chapter, Bulgakov uses intellect, insight and compassion to convey the realities of addiction, and how the individual can be destroyed by it. But he's careful not to apportion blame - being a former morphine addict himself, Bulgakov knew his subject matter well.
A Country Doctor's Notebook is a classic read and I'd recommend it to anyone with a love of literature. With its earthy and uncompromising style, the narrative resonates long after you've put it down.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2010
A series of short stories about life as a junior doctor in rural Russia in 1917/8. Human frailties and compassion shine out in the darkness of the Russian winter. The great events in St Petersburg and Moscow, with their electric light and trams and revolutionaries, might be on another planet.
Famous for his "White Guard", and the play version of it which was Stalin's favourite play, Bulgakov is very funny, in a dry wit observer sort of way. One wonders what Stalin, who reputedly never laughed, found in Bulgakov?