Tag Archives: Henry Marsh

Admissions- Henry Marsh


The second of neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s autobiographies follows him after retirement, with a look back to significant moments of his career, and his post-retirement trip to help a fellow neurosurgeon in Nepal.



I was really looking forward to reading ‘Admissions’ as  ‘Do No Harm‘ was one of my favourite reads of 2017. I bought it just after Christmas and read it quite soon after. I must admit that although I did enjoy it I was a little disappointed, it just doesn’t meet up to ‘Do No Harm’.

It focused a lot more on Marsh’s personal life than ‘Do No Harm’ had. Whilst it was impressive to see what he was capable in other parts of his life (fitting windows, building rooms) I didn’t really care much about it.

I do think however his acquisition of the cottage as well as his trip to Nepal really said something about his character, and of the big change that retirement can be. Marsh seemed almost to fear having nothing to do. He spoke a lot of dementia, and I can imagine that for someone who really has relied on their brain, and who has seen what can happen when it goes wrong the thought that he could loose his own brain function would be especially scary.

I did enjoy the briefer steps into the medical. There were less descriptions of surgery than in the first book, although some may prefer that. We did however get to see more severe brain injuries during his time in Nepal, as the patients had to pay for treatment and had less access so were more likely to further progressed.

Partly because most of the medical sections were done in countries where languages other than English were spoken I felt that we got less of an insight into the patients. Sometimes we did get a little third-hand insight, but that was less detailed. In fact in Nepal Marsh tries to teach the doctors about the importance of seeing the patients as people, rather than something to be treated.

It was also interesting to see medicine in other cultures. I was particularly struck by how important being at home was for those in Nepal, to the point where families would use a hand breathing bag to take an ill person home to die which seems like amazing dedication, but  also seems somehow right.

There was less of his views of the NHS too, which made it somewhat less emotive. You could still get the sense that Marsh loves the NHS though, but hates what is happening to it. I don’t think that’s uncommon in the NHS community.

I think those who preferred the more personal bits of ‘Do No Harm’ will love this one, but as far as medical memoirs go it’s not the most medical. Still a very good overall memoir though


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Paperback (£6.29)

Hardback (£16.99)

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Filed under Biography, health, medical, Memoir, non-fiction review

Deals of the Moment- December 2018

Every month amazon has a set of kindle monthly deals. Whenever there are deals of interest I post on here. Links are associate links but money goes back into the blog.

So I’m going to briefly talk about the books I’ve read which are on offer, and those that I have bought myself. Why I liked them/bought them, and what they are about. End links are to the amazon page, any other links are to my reviews.

Please note prices are correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.

Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery- Henry Marsh

I will definitely be buying this if I don’t get it as a Christmas present. I loved Henry Marsh’s first biography of his life as a brain surgeon (Do No Harm)

Buy it for just £0.99

I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts About Being a Woman- Nora Ephron

I remember reading a really positive review of this book which described it as being funny and feminist. It looks like an entertaining but thoughtful read.

You can buy it…here (only £0.99)

Shift- Hugh Howey

Shift is the second book in the Wool trilogy. (preceded by Wool, and continued in Dust.) A series set in a dystopian future where the world is uninhabitable, except for by the residents in a silo. It’s very good

Buy here (only £1.99) 

Girl Up- Laura Bates

Girl Up is about the things women are told every day, and shouldn’t be.

You can buy it…here (only £0.99)

Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine

Delusions of Gender is about how girls and boys are treated differently, and how this creates differences for how they behave. It’s a real eye-openner

Buy it…here (only £3.09)

You can also buy Testosterone Rex from the same writer, which is all about toxic masculinity (and at the same price!)

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape- Sohaila Abdulali

I reviewed this just last week (link above). It’s about the stories of different rape victims, but it goes beyond their rapes

Buy it…here (only £0.99)

In Shock: How Nearly Dying Made Me a Better Intensive Care Doctor- Rana Awdish

Similar to ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ Awdish’s book is about what it’s like to be a patient when you’re a doctor, plus it’s about how that changed what type of a doctor she is. I love doctor memoirs so will happily add this to my collection

Buy it…here (only £1.99)

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Do No Harm- Henry Marsh


Henry Marsh is a renowned brain surgeon working in the NHS in the UK. In ‘Do No Harm’ he gives an account of his life as a brain surgeon. He speaks of how the NHS has changed over the years, his victories and his failures, and the effects these things have had on his life.



I found out about ‘Do No Harm’ first through Ellie’s blog, and I added it to my wishlist instantly, since that time I heard lots of great things about it, but it was only when it came up on the kindle monthly deals that I actually bought it, in some ways I’m glad I waited, in others I wish I’d gotten to it sooner.

I actually ended up reading it when I was in hospital for my own operation (because apparently I’m insane) I think that I could read about operations at the time without getting freaked out shows just how interested I was. Having said that I wouldn’t say it’s a good book for the faint hearted, there are some rather graphic descriptions of operations- although personally I felt Marsh’s sense of control and anxiety more than I felt squeamish.

You did get a sense of Marsh caring about his patients, he spoke about how he had caused the death, or lack of life, in some patients and how you had to lock that knowledge away because otherwise you would just give up, but that didn’t stop you from feeling guilty. When you do operations which do have such a high level of risk then there are bound to be times that it doesn’t go to plan, and Marsh has probably saved more lives than he has ended, he has a strange mix of guilt for these cases and the stereotypical surgeon arrogance. It made me start to think of that arrogance as a sort of defense mechanism- like a surgeon needs that arrogance otherwise they will always be terrified of what failure will cause, they have to believe things will go right to be able to take that risk.

Another interesting thing was how Marsh talked about how the NHS has changed, and, as he sees it, has become less effective. He wrote of how things were held back by too much paperwork, and bureaucracy, and computers that didn’t work. At one point he is trying to get some x-ray results, but he doesn’t seem to be able to see them on his computer so he goes to the x-ray department, who only seem to be able to see them with one person’s log in. The computers are meant to make things easier but Marsh says if they had the old x-ray films he could have just picked it up and looked in a few seconds instead of trying for a long time to see them on the computer.

This is particularly poignant now because the NHS has been getting lots of cuts, and sold off to private companies, both things which makes it harder for frontline staff to do their jobs. We are very lucky in this country. Our NHS is (generally) free. Anyone can access healthcare. Without the NHS some of Marsh’s patients wouldn’t have been able to afford their operations. It seems crazy that people think the NHS should be scrapped. No it’s not perfect, but the thought of it going away terrifies me, and that seems to be what our current government is working towards. We have a nursing shortage but for some reason the government decided that they would stop the nursing bursary, and we have lots of foreign nurses which we may no longer have with Brexit, and lots of nurses are leaving because their pay has been frozen, they’re having to do more hours, and the paperwork side of things has increased so much that they feel they can’t give time to patients.

Okay end of political rant.

I really found this book interesting and Marsh’s style of writing made it easy to read as well rather than clinical and dry. Now I just have to decide whether to buy a similar book about heart surgery next or Marsh’s second memoir…any recommendations?


Buy it:

Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£6.29)

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Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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Filed under health, Memoir, non-fiction review