Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Direct Red

So, taking a break from the slog of Wolf Hall (more on that later), I decided to pick up Gabriel Weston's Direct Red.
It was a quick read - took me less than 24 hours to finish - and was somewhat unsatisfying. Partly, I think this was my problem, not the book's. Another non-fiction doctor book (my partner keeps being given them for Christmas), this one follows various incidents in the life of Ms Weston, a surgeon. And I'm afraid, I just didn't get on with Ms Weston. I don't know if it's the fact of her being a surgeon (an odd, and strangely blase bunch, even by doctor standards, I am told) or a woman in a man's world, but her writing style is quite cold and clinical, as if she's scared to be human. She's a surgeon, a person who cuts others up for a living, and you can never escape that surgical sterility. While she does occasionally show flashes of care or sympathy, if you were expecting a gentle bedside manner throughout, you're in for a dissapointment.

There is an obvious comparison to be drawn with Max Pemberton* - who comes across as much less "together" (by which I don't mean less competent, just less experienced) but that out-of-his-depth-ness makes him a lot easier to relate to. Ms Weston on the other hand, while there is a strange kind of poetry to the way she writes, always seems so very detached from everything, even her own emotions.

I was also rather uncomfortable with the book from a feminist perspective. Not wishing to spoil the ending; but it left me rather unsatisfied, and wondering if there weren't more (societal) pressures at work in the final scenario than were admitted to in the text, but I don't want to put words into the author's mouth. The final chapter also seemed at odds with what we had seen before of the character growing throughout the book.

It's a much more grown-up book than either of the Pemberton offerings, and there is a strange sort of beauty in the technical wording and the flash of surgical implements, it's a very cold kind of beauty, like blood on snow. If you're at all interested in life in hospitals, I would really suggest reading Pemberton's books first.

*Author of Trust Me, I'm a (junior) doctor, and Where does it hurt? - see previous post.

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