“I wondher why ye can always read a doctor’s bill an’ ye niver can read his purscription.”
– Finley Peter Dunne
With the days being long and light, the weather sunny and warm and my summer holidays around the corner, I am selecting novels to read during the relaxing weeks ahead. When you are keen on reading too, you will love my selection of summer reads.
In all 5 novels, a doctor plays some kind of role (hence the above quote ). And trust me, none of the novels has got the “doctor getting a relationship with the pretty nurse” theme. No, they are far more profound than that and still light enough reads for the summer holidays.
Light reads they may be, but they will certainly enlighten and ignite you! Read on to see which 5 novels are my 2019 summer selection for you (in random order).
The rules of seeing by Joe Heap
When your brother is a doctor and tells you that there is a possibility for you to see again after having been blind for years, what would you do?
That’s the choice of the main character of this novel, Nova. Nova decides to have the operation that restores her sight, but after waking up she discovers that she no longer understands the world. She was comfortable being blind and feels that now she cannot see all there is to see. She cannot follow the rules; the rules of seeing.
But even the ones that can see, do not always see. When you meet the second female character, Kate, you soon understand that she is blind while seeing. The two girls become friends (and more than that) and the novel makes you see light and darkness in various ways and shows the difficulties both characters meet while working on leaving their different darknesses behind them.
This novel deals in an original and insightful way with the concept of seeing and blindness. For teachers, who work with people learning new things on a daily basis, the novel will be a reminder what it is like to learn something new. Something that may be of interest to all of us actually.
The novel has got some unexpected twists and turns, deals with love and loss and plays in lively London and the (not so) quiet countryside.
The only critical remark from my side would be that the author has tried to put too much into one novel. It was a mixture of a romantic novel, a thriller and a highly philosophical one. That combination can work brilliantly, but I think that the mixture and many storylines made the message of the novel less strong. That said, it definitely is a page-turner. One for the beach I’d say, with your sunnies on, because after reading this novel you realise how precious your eyes and eyesight are.
A spark of light by Jodie Picoult
From the UK to the US. With different southern states in the USA making their abortion laws stricter, this novel is highly actual. Jodie Picoult describes the choice for abortion or the choice for live from both sides, helping you get a more balanced view regarding this complicated choice.
The structure of the novel is quite unusual, since it is told backwards. It starts with a shooting in an abortion clinic and goes back hour by hour, describing the different characters (among them a black doctor performing abortions in this fictive clinic in one of the Southern States), their actions, lives and motives. Already knowing what has happened, creates a wish for understanding why it has happened in stead of focussing on what has happened or on finding out who has done it.
Many novels start with the end and then return to a chronological order as how it came to that. Jodie Picoult has done so in many of her novels too, so I was highly intrigued by this different structure. It made the novel less of a page turner for me, but the subject is dealt with so balanced and judgement-free that it really opens up your mind for all the storytellers of the story.
Since life is not black and white and since we all tend to see the world around us through our own eyes and with our own truths, I think Jodie Picoult has achieved a master piece with this novel, even more so than in her other novels (although she always pictures a story from different sides).
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
We go back to Europe and back in time. This novel is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews. Lale and Gita were two ordinary people living in an extraordinary time. Their freedom, their dignity, their families and even their names were taken from them when they came to Auschwitz. When they met in that awful place, they fell in love. This love and their incredible determination helped them survive years (yes: plural!) in the concentration camp.
Though the theme is a heavy one and the author does not beautify what happened in the concentration camps (that’s where the doctor in this novel plays his role – we meet Mengele), she spares us enough details and writes with a certain distance, so we can read one. The fact that I knew beforehand that Lale and Gita would survive also made the reading easier. There is a “happy” end for some in this novel, though the loss of so many other lives will stay with you long after you have finished your read.
With the 75th D-Day anniversary in June, I thought it apt to add at least one WWII novel as a summer read this year. It is not one for the beach, but certainly one I would put on my reading list. It makes you humble, thankful and appreciate your freedom.
The photo above is taken at Dachau, near Müchen, another concentration camp.
The heart by Maylis de Kerangal
We stay in Europe but move forward in time and to France. The heart is a story about a heart transplant. Like you knew beforehand that the main characters of “The Tattooist” would survive, this novel tells you in the first line that 19-year-old Simon will lose his life and heart.
The novels does not so much circle around Simon itself, but around everyone involved in his life and death and the decisions they face. Like with Jodie Picoult’s novel, the author looks at the choices people need to make from different angles. As a reader you gain insight in the medical procedures involving a heart transplant (from both sides, the doctors dealing with the giver and the ones dealing with the receivers of the organs) and above all what the transplant means for those left behind and for those who get a second chance at life. It is a multi-layered novel that touches your heart, makes you (re)appreciate life and will make you admire those having to make the hardest of decisions in the hardest of times.
Like Joe Heap teaches us the rules of seeing, Maylis de Kerangal teaches us the language of the heart, using many metaphors and making us aware that “the heart is more than the heart”.
Waking lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Let’s leave Europe again and go to Israel. We follow a neurosurgeon who, one night after an exhausting shift at the hospital, hits an African migrant when he is speeding his SUV through the desert. He checks upon the victim, concludes he is beyond saving and drives on.
What happens next is that he is forced by the widow to atone in the form of medical treatment of illegal African immigrants.
The novel gives insight in the problems refugees face, the moral dilemmas of the protagonist (“what would I do?” pops up a lot while reading) and the way different characters in the novel deal with guilt and survival, shame and desire.
It is a thriller with romantic and philosophical elements. These add an extra layer to the novel and storyline (unlike in “The rules of seeing” – where I thought there were too many styles put into one single novel). It is less of a page-turner than “The rules of seeing”, probably because the author constantly challenges you as a reader to think about what you are(n’t) capable of, morally spoken.
Having read all of them, I can look back on 5 fabulous reads, each having enlightened and ignited me.
Thank you for reading my blog this week and enjoy reading one or more of these novels this summer. As one can never have enough reading tips, feel free to add yours in the comments section below! And in case you have missed my reading list of last summer: you can find it here.