Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Just Read: Under The Knife

Under The Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations
By Arnold van de Laar
Published by John Murray, 2018.

Somewhat of a misnomer as I have actually listened to this as an audiobook via Audible :-)

The author has picked 28 operations, some mundane and some utterly amazing to us nowadays, which have changed the history of surgery.

From Abraham performing circumcisions using a stone knife to the most high-tech equipment imaginable in the 21st century, from alcohol as an analgesic to the complexities of modern anaesthesia, this remarkable book covers the ever-evolving understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body and the evolution of surgery into what we are familiar with today.

 It covers Kings and Queens, Popes, Presidents and astronauts, as well as the brave ordinary folk who experimented on themselves or allowed others to experiment on them. This really was absorbing to listen to and the book would undoubtedly be just as enjoyable to read.

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Just Read: Swiss School

Swiss School

By Mabel Esther Allen

Girls Gone By Publishers, Radstock, 2017

I am slowly collecting as many school stories by Mabel Esther Allan as I can find, and this is a shiny new reprint produced by  Girls Gone By which I received as a birthday present from my family in the US.

I was especially thrilled to find this was not a stand-alone story but introduced an old friend from "Three Go To Switzerland", Hanni Werter, who befriends the newly arrived Felicity and introduces her to a way of life vastly different from that of her previous co-educational and very progressive school in the Welsh mountains.

There are trials and tribulations, misunderstandings and spats between girls, as you would expect in a school story, but Felicity is a nicely-drawn character and is is a pleasure to read how she settles in the new school and manages to cram in adventures too.
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Just Read: To Raise the Fallen

To Raise the Fallen: 
A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers and Spiritual Writings of Fr Willie Doyle S.J.
Complied and Edited by Patrick Kenny.
Published by Veritas Publications, 2017

I enjoy reading about WW1 in general, and was delighted to know this book had been published. There is a wonderful website by the same author about the heroic and saintly Fr Willie Doyle, covering his life and exploits in the First World War, but this book is rather more sober in content and repays slow and careful reading.

How a pious young lad who loved practical jokes but suffered ill-health ended up being accepted at seminary, being ordained and then saving many physical lives as well as countless spiritual ones by his priestly ministrations is inspirational indeed, and to read his own words about his spiritual life and how he tried to emulate Christ so closely is a privilege.
Many thanks to Patrick Kenny for the website and for this lovely little volume!
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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

With the End in Mind

With the End in Mind:

Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

By Katherine Mannix

Published by William Collins, December 2017

Katherine Mannix is superbly qualified to write this book, having spent a huge part of her long and distinguished medical career in palliative care, working with people who are dying.

From her first encounters with death as a medical student, then as a junior doctor, she has experienced dealing with patients, their often troubling physical problems as their health deteriorates, their families and all that the dying process entails. Familiarity does not breed contempt, however; rather it breeds sensitivity, compassion, respect, kindness and a respect for those about to undertake the final journey towards death.

Just as no two births or lives are the same, neither are any two deaths identical. They all may share similarities, but dealing with the dying and their loved ones can still produce surprises. Some people are in absolute denial that they are actively dying right up to the point where they lapse into unconsciousness; others request to be kept fully apprised of any changes in their medical conditions in order to plan ahead and prepare themselves and their loved ones.

There is no "right" way of dying and Dr Mannix discusses in some detail how different diseases influence the dying process and stresses that symptoms can almost always be successfully controlled to allow the patient to live as positively as possible until death supervenes.

I cannot find enough words to praise this magnificent book, but simply wish to echo her advice to discuss all these things with your own loved ones, make them aware of your thoughts and wishes and document your wishes. It will make life so much easier for you and for your loved ones when the time comes.

"In sharing the stories of so many ordinary people as they reached
their final days, I hope that I have shown that, in the end, none
of us is ordinary, that each unique individual is extraordinary in
their own way. As we approach the ends of our lives, we experience
a shift in perspective that allows us to focus on the most important
things in our own domain. This shift is both poignant and
freeing, as these stories illustrate. Living is precious, and is perhaps
best appreciated when we live with the end in mind.
It’s time to talk about dying.
I have. Thank you for listening. Now it’s your turn to talk."

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

JUST READ Adopted By The Amish

Adopted By The Amish:

A Family's Pilgrimage Back In Time

By Bob Brawley

Published by LifeRich Publishing, 2017

When I first started to read this book, I foolishly allowed myself to flip to the end and discovered that the family did not remain Amish. I was a bit disappointed and laid the book aside for a while, thinking it was not what I had hoped to be reading.

Yesterday I picked the book up again and just read it straight through, and what a good read it was!  Bob had a very chequered past despite his Christian upbringing, and a precipitate second marriage started well but he and Shelly soon developed problems. A chance newspaper article mentioning the Amish piqued their interest and they went to Missouri to visit the Amish community. They were made very welcome and after their return, they kept thinking about the family they had met. It was not long before they decided to sell up and move back to Missouri with the aim of becoming Amish, and this book tells of many of their experiences as they started to become familiar with the Ordnung of the strict Old Order Amish community the Bishop allowed them to live in.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as they had hoped and ill-health and  accidents saw them making the hard decision to leave the community and rejoin the English world again. That too was an equally hard transition and led to heartbreak before an eventual happy ending.

It is a really interesting read and gives insights not often found in other books. It still left many of my  questions unanswered, but is an enjoyable read.

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