Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Histories by Sam Guglani

We wear our secrets openly, like diseases

The messy truth of a hospital is laid bare in this interlinked collection of stories; not just the bleeps, the blood, the battles, but the hearts beating behind them. A junior doctor makes a moral judgment; a porter waxes lyrical on his invisibility; a patient swims in and out of consciousness. Over the course of one week, each character pulses round the others - a body fighting its own sickness. A masterwork of diverse ventriloquism, structured like Olive Kitteridge or A Visit from the Goon Squad, with the authenticity and insight of Atul Gawande or Paul Kalinithi.

In prose that's tender and refined, doctor and poet Sam Guglani dissects the ordinary moments that make the difference; taking up that tug or war between medicine and faith, love and fear, life and death.

The lyrical prose in this book make it a joy to read. Each sentence holds meaning and the more I read the more enchanted I became. There is a hypnotic effect to the poetic language and it is no surprise to learn that the author is a poet.

There is a real sense of humanity and compassion to be found within the covers of this slim volume. Each story linking seamlessly into the next to demonstrate these very virtues of the staff and patients caught up in the civilised confusion of a hospital. This is no particular teaching hospital. It could be anywhere, with the emotions described through the various stories, to be found in any location.

The book is both thought provoking and anguished and not sentimentalised in any way. Instead, we get a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those people who are involved in the healing, care and recovery of people within the complex parameters of the current state of medicine.

I can imagine myself dipping in and out of this book in the future for the sheer joy of reading such beautiful writing. This is Dr. Guglani's debut book and I certainly hope it will not be his last.

ISBN: 978 1786483805

Publisher: Riverrun

About the Author

Sam Guglani is a doctor and writer. His poems have been published in various anthologies and have won prizes. He writes a regular column called 'The Notes' in The Lancet. He completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Oxford. He is a Consultant Clinical Oncologist in Cheltenham as well as the Director and Curator of Medicine Unboxed, an event series he founded in 2009 to engage health professionals and the public in conversation around medicine, illuminated through the arts hosting talks with authors such as Henry Marsh, Lionel Shriver, Julian Baggini and Marion Coutts.

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