This month I bring you not 1 but 2 fabulous 5 star reads. The frankly funny This is Going to Hurt : The Diaries of a Junior Doctor which I recommend you read today! Then there’s the utterly charming post WW2 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT : SECRET DIARIES OF A JUNIOR DOCTOR – Adam Kay
Rating: 5 Stars
This Is Going To Hurt is a hilarious book, written by former NHS gynecologist turned comedy writer Adam Kay. It is written as a series of diary entries over a couple of years during his service at the NHS. It has been compiled from his actual notes, and details his encounters with patients interspersed with some notes on his personal life. (Mostly how he has to cancel plans at the last minute). I knew I was going to enjoy it when the dedication page made me laugh. And it did not disappoint thereafter. Almost every page made me laugh out loud. I have included two excerpts here to give you an idea:
Friday 10 September 2004
I notice that every patient on the ward has a pulse of 60 recorded in their observation chart, so I surreptitiously inspect the healthcare assistant’s measurement technique. He feels the patient’s pulse, looks at his watch and meticulously counts the number of seconds per minute.
Friday 12 November 2004
An inpatient’s blood results show her clotting is all over the shop for no good reason. Hugo eventually cracks it. She has been taking St John’s Wort capsules from a health food shop for anxiety. Hugo points out to her (and, in fairness, to me) that it interacts with the metabolism of warfarin and her clotting will probably settle down if she stops taking it. She is astonished. “I thought it was just herbal – how can it be that bad for you?” At the sound of the words “just herbal”, the temperature in the room seems to drop a few degrees and Hugo barely holds in a weary sigh. It’s clearly not his first time at this particular rodeo.
“Apricot stones contain cyanide,” he replies drily. “The death cap mushroom has a 50 per cent fatality rate. Natural does not equal safe. There’s a plant in my garden where if you simply sat under it for ten minutes then you’d be dead.” Job done: she bins the tablets.
I ask him about that plant over a colonoscopy later. “Water lily.”
*Laughing emoji, laughing emoji*
Although this book is a laugh a minute (really) Adam Kay doesn’t shy away from telling the reader how overworked junior doctors are, the brutal work hours and average pay. It is quite sobering when you realise what they go through, and how tired they are on a daily basis. You begin to understand the massive sacrifice doctors make in their personal lives to be there, treating patients, sometimes being regarded as more robot than human.
Adam Kay is no longer a doctor, and the story of how he came to hang up his stethoscope is a sad one. He very clearly needed some mental health support and none was made available to him, resulting in a great loss to the NHS. This book might be one of the funniest things you will read this year, but it is also a call for some much-needed change, worldwide I think, in how doctors are treated. Anyone who is a doctor, or has a close relationship with a doctor will probably agree! Overall, this is a very worthwhile book, one of my favourites of the year, I highly recommend you read it immediately!
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Rating: 5 stars
What a delightful book! (You may have seen the movie which was recently released. I haven’t watched it yet but I hear it’s lovely.) This is a special book set in the years after WWII when everyone was picking up the pieces of their lives. A young woman Juliet, a writer, learns about a book club that formed during the war on German occupied Guernsey. She begins to correspond with some members of the unusually named Society. Enchanted by her correspondences, she decides to visit in search of a story, and discovers so much more.
I really loved this book. The story is told through various letters between Juliet, her friends back in London, and the members of the Society and I loved that format. It did make me feel that the art of letter writing is disappearing in this Instagram age. I immediately wanted to write long and newsy emails to all my friends and receive them in return. (In fact, I think I shall!)
All the characters are delightful and very real. I loved the book club, the story of how they got the name and how it came to be (an alibi when they were caught breaking curfew!). Having no idea that Guernsey was occupied during the war, it was interesting to learn more about that, and how it affected the people who lived there. I also enjoy a feisty female lead and we definitely have that in Juliet! She is a treasure.
This book is sweet and funny and so very much worth reading.
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