Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Cutting it

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 14 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1933
  1. Luisa Dillner, head of new product development, BMJ Group
  1. ldillner{at}

    A surgeon’s slim collection of vignettes from the frontline of a British hospital are arresting and stark, finds Luisa Dillner

    There are some things only doctors know. What it’s like to be a doctor is one of them. Most doctors have stories squirreled away of events that were defining, whether for being shocking, sad, frightening, or hilarious. Suspecting and glimpsing the complex and emotional fabric of doctoring, the public has an endless fascination for what doctors, do, think, and feel that has spawned a plethora of books and television series.

    In her slim volume Direct Red (the name of a histology stain) Gabriel Weston provides poetic but precise medical vignettes, partly from her career as an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, although her author’s note says, “This book is not literally true.” She provides no traditional chronological narrative, instead using chapter headings such as “Speed,” “Sex,” “Death,” “Beauty,” and “Emergencies.” Weston graduated in English before studying medicine, and her writing reflects this, with an accuracy and lyrical beauty that are all the more startling when they describe, for example, the bowel being heaved out …

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