Tag Archives: memoir

Admissions- Henry Marsh


Synopsis

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.

 

Review

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

4/5

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More Fool Me- Stephen Fry


Synopsis (from amazon)

In his early thirties, Stephen Fry – writer, comedian, star of stage and screen – had, as they say, ‘made it’. Much loved in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, author of a critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel, The Liar, with a glamorous and glittering cast of friends, he had more work than was perhaps good for him.
What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as the 80s drew to a close, he discovered a most enjoyable way to burn the candle at both ends, and took to excess like a duck to breadcrumbs. Writing and recording by day, and haunting a never ending series of celebrity parties, drinking dens, and poker games by night, in a ludicrous and impressive act of bravado, he fooled all those except the very closest to him, some of whom were most enjoyably engaged in the same dance.
He was – to all intents and purposes – a high functioning addict. Blazing brightly and partying wildly as the 80s turned to the 90s, AIDS became an epidemic and politics turned really nasty, he was so busy, so distracted by the high life, that he could hardly see the inevitable, headlong tumble that must surely follow . . .

Review

Having enjoyed Moab is my Washpot and The Fry Chronicles I was rather looking forward to reading the latest instalment of Stephen Fry’s memoirs. Plus The Fry Chronicles had ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger with Stephen taking his first snort of cocaine, which suggested we could expect some excitement.

Unfortunately More Fool Me really didn’t capitalise on those promises, and I found myself rather disappointed.

The first 60 or so pages were a re-cap of Moab is my Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. Fine if you haven’t read either, or if you have the memory of a sieve. I started off reading them thinking that it had been a long time since I read Moab is my Washpot. Turned out I didn’t need such a detailed recap. I got bored around about 20 pages in and spent the rest of the time flicking through just reading a sentence or a paragraph here and there to see if I had forgotten anything, I hadn’t.

The next few pages were probably the best bit of the book. They showed the sort of wit that I would have expected from Stephen Fry, and a certain amount of self-criticism. He told a little of his early drug taking days and explained what attraction cocaine held for him. He promised that by the end of the book we would understand why taking cocaine was such a mistake.

I was really getting into the book when I find the section ended and a new section began, ‘The Diary’.

What followed was basically a copy of his diary for a few months during this time, with the occasional footnote to explain. There are no other words for it, it was dull. There was next to no introspection. It was written as you would write a diary to yourself, semi-note form, no great prose or witty remarks. A lot of the time it seemed to be lists of names and places, and ‘got drunk’ ‘took coke’ type references. There were a few more detailed and interesting entries, which were mainly when he was writing The Hippopotamus, and not doing drugs- maybe that was what he meant by we would know why it was bad- there wasn’t anything else which suggested anything really negative.

Half the time I couldn’t follow who all the people were, they were often refereed to by just first name, which might be fine in terms of Stephen reading his diary ut how was a reader expected to remember after just one explanation who everyone was?

All I really got out of it was an addition of The Hippopotamus on my wishlist.

Skip this one, Moab and The Fry Chronicles are worth reading, this one, not so much.

2/5

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Filed under Biography, Memoir, non-fiction review