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Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England's Most Eminent Surgeon Paperback – 1 Jan 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752441396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752441399
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Rachel Holmes completed her PhD under Roy Porter, and then held lectureships in English at the University of Sussex, and Queen Mary College at the University of London. In 1998 she became part of the launch team of Amazon.co.uk, and was Web Site Manager of the Amazon UK site before leaving in December 2002 to pursue a full-time writing career. She has judged several literary prizes, including the 2000 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction, and has appeared on Any Questions and Newsnight Review.


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Though tempted to say, 'Ignore the other review on this page!' I'll be diplomatic and comment that different readers prefer different prose styles in their biographies. The Secret Life... is an utterly assured, beautifully researched, crisp, clear and thorough depiction of an extremely fascinating life. It provides very engaging background material about Barry's family, social, political and cultural circumstances - but also does not shy away from exploring deeper questions of psychology and gender... all wrapped up in a life that was one marvellous adventure and hugely successful in its own way. A brilliant and interesting book about a brilliant and interesting individual.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr James Barry had a secret. He was, in fact, a woman and as such was Britain's first female doctor - something that wasn't discovered until his/her death.This book examines his fascinating life. The reason that it doesn't get the full five stars from me is because sometimes it felt a little like reading an academic text rather than a rollicking good read.
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Format: Paperback
It seems that a daughter of James Barry, a painter of some talent, at the age of around fifteen or so, decided she would in future be known as a man. She wanted to study medicine, and of course, at that time she would never have been accepted as a student, due to the fact that it would not be seemly for a woman to study beside men. It cannot have been easy for her – she was small, slight, had a squeaky voice, but on the other hand she was confident, strong-minded and determined. She also had powerful patrons, whom, it would seem, were willing to back her after she had done the equivalent of matriculation and been accepted at University. For the whole of the rest of her life she was a man. How much those close to her knew about this extraordinary person is a moot point. She had even left instructions that her body was not to undergo any examination on her death. How did she get away with it? Even fighting a number of duels, though these have sketchy provenance.

After graduation from the University of Edinburgh Medical School, she served in India, and Cape Town, South Africa, introducing many improvements – especially for the poorer people and for people suffering from leprosy. She was popular socially, due to a long friendship with influential people. She seems to have been an enlightened doctor and specialised in childbirth, being one of the earliest doctors to develop the Caesarian method of childbirth.

This book is a detailed study of her life and works. Letters exchanged among those who knew her before and after her death speculated that she may have been an hermaphrodite – neither wholly woman or wholly man. Her career in medicine is an amazing story and I would urge anyone to read it, it’s absolutely fascinating.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book itself is new so thereford great value. The story itself is rather dull, densely written, but I ended up feeling sorry for this obviously very mixed-up person.
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