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Great medical stories written in a very direct, galloping style.
on 23 December 2012
This compilation of 8 short stories contains the same, but one less, than the Vintage Classic collection 'A Country Doctor's Notebook' by the same author. In the notes at the back, you'll read that they were never intended to be published in one volume, so there is a bit of repetition.
The stories are remarkable. He's newly qualified young doctor and given the enormous responsibility of running an entire hospital, without the assistance of another doctor, together with two nurses and an orderly. The stories are so good, that I've already started to re-read them. I really like his style, each new medical dilemma provokes a shift in his being, I couldn't help but notice there is quite a lot of implied faith in the narrative and so it follows that the notes at the end explain the religious influence on his writing.
I happened to catch the recent Sky Arts screening of the playhouse version, featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. I only managed to see Episode 1 but was immediately drawn in. I wanted to order the DVD, but its not released until January sometime, so I thought I would read the book instead.
What's really intriguing about the transition from page to screen, is the device of using double narrators, often simultaneously, to discuss the past and the present, as the older doctor remembers his early beginnings. The stories themselves however, are much more straightforward and the two time-frames are dealt with by way of interior monologue.
The other really interesting thing about this book (and its screen version) is the treatment of humour. Humour is very difficult to translate from a different language and I wanted to see firstly how the visceral subjects could be made humorous, and also, who or what was at the expense of the humour?
Without saying too much, because it's a very memorable book, the humour stems mainly from his initial nervous unpreparedness and the self-depracating intellectual grilling he gives himself about the extent of his skill. He is an anxious soul and you can't help but giggle at his insecurity, especially his fretting about what on earth he will do if he's ever presented with a strangulated hernia.
The notes at the back are fascinating. The chapter called Morphine is explained fully in the notes. My favourite chapter, I think, has to be The Steel Throat.