In this ‘Bookshelfie’ blog, we are delighted to feature book recommendations from Dr Harriet Blair, a St Mary’s Calne current parent.
I am a doctor in a hospital and my patients are an endless source of interest, both from their problems, but also the parts of their lives they choose to share. While it’s incredibly uplifting to cure an illness or save a life, at times however it can be desperately sad, especially someone with an illness where there is little that that can be done to help. I have lovely colleagues and we share the ups and downs, but when I come home there are times when a really funny book is medicine for me.
Can Medicine Be Cured by Seamus O’Mahony is very honest and funny about working in a hospital. At times it’s cynical about medicine but it’s written from the perspective of a gastroenterologist, my specialty, and I passed it onto my colleagues who found it highly entertaining.
I sometimes think medicine is like a Whodunnit novel, trying to work out the likely illness or problem is like looking for the murderer with clues and red herrings. At school I always enjoyed Agatha Christie books and I still enjoy crime fiction. Looking through my bookshelves I was trying to think which has been a favourite. Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy were excellent holiday page turners in the best tradition, memorably clever and brilliant.
I have recently read The most fun we ever had by Claire Lombardo. It’s an entertaining fictional story and very good on family, in particularly, sisterly relations. I have sisters and she tells a great story around the chaos, conflicting emotions and the relationships of family life.
Equally absorbing was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. While this happens to be about doctors, I enjoyed it far more for the description of life in Ethiopia and the fictional saga of two twin boys growing up there and their lives and dramas. It does have accurate medical descriptions, and is clearly written by a doctor, but the events are for everyone.
Finally, for a much shorter and funnier fictional read, anything by Barbara Pym. I live in a small village and she brilliantly portrays village dynamics. I particularly enjoyed Some Tame Gazelle, about two sisters living together and their relationships. I believe she started writing this while a student, and it took her 16 years to finish. She clearly was undeterred and went on to write much more. Definitely an undemanding, entertaining wind down bed-time read, perfect after a long day!