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by Gavin Francis
In 18 chapters on 18 body parts, the author delivers no-nonsense lessons on anatomy and biology, each illustrated with a patient plus regular detours into medical history, medical scandal, and his own colorful life. “This book is a series of stories about the body in sickness and in health, in living and dying,” he writes at the beginning. A man appears with a nail through his palm or a wine bottle in his rectum. A depressive, immobile and silent for years, slowly begins to move and speak, more each day after a series of electroshocks to his brain...Other chapters provide odd, penetrating insights — e.g., poets undergo open-heart surgery or breast cancer mastectomy and reveal the experience in verse... Many anecdotes are the bizarre sort that medical students employ to impress other people, and Francis portrays himself as a healer of almost supernatural compassion, but he has enjoyed a spectacularly varied career as a general practitioner, emergency room doctor, and volunteer in third world clinics and polar exploration. The result is plenty of good material, and he possesses the writing talent to bring it to life.
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