Jan 13, 2015

Doctor in the House

by Richard Gordon

From the fifties, the retelling of a young man's forays through medical school at an imaginary teaching hospital in London called St. Swithin's. As the author was a surgeon himself, I'm pretty sure he was drawing on his own experiences (probably with embellishments) and gather that the picture of medical practice in that bygone era is more or less accurate. It's full of humorous incidents and very lighthearted. My knowledge is very general from a layman's perspective, but I was still horrified at some of the ways patients were treated- surgery was used to cure all manner of ills that seemed entirely unrelated, for one thing. Most of it though, is about life as a student- dealing with roommates, inscrutable professors, cramming for exams, ineffectively trying to date nurses and so on. The shock of being presented with his first cadaver to dissect. How quickly the students got used to such things. The chapter where he was sent out on midwifery rounds, on a rickety bicycle through damp streets to dirty tenement houses, reminded me so much of The Midwife. I felt sorry for the patients the medical students had to practice on, but they often seemed proud of the attention their ailments garnered! It's an amusing read and the writing even reminds me a bit of James Herriot.

I picked this book (and two of its sequels) at random from a secondhand sale once. Never heard of them before. I've found out that they were very popular in the sixties, the author (whose real name is Gordon Ostlere) wrote thirty-seven books in the series, and there was a television show made. Apparently the first handful of Doctor books are semi-autobiographical, after that they (according to wikipedia) get fictional, including a lot more "sexual innuendo and farce." I have a hunch I'll prefer the early novels. Not to go searching for, but if I come across more on book-hunts I'll probably pick them up.

Rating: 3/5       190 pages, 1952

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