Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

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Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Weston's fiction debut is as stunning as her memoir, Direct Red. It is completely absorbing and I've changed my mind about a long-held belief. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224091282

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There are two women in an operating theatre and when one starts bleeding heavily - fatally - the other freezes, unable, despite all her training and undoubted skills, to do anything at all. Whatever the outcome it cannot pass unnoticed, unreported and surgeon Nancy Mullion is called to appear before a tribunal appointed by the General Medical Council. Over a period of weeks she's forced to confront the effect of being a doctor who has killed as well as cured. You're probably making assumptions now and nodding wisely. Don't - because you are almost certainly going to be wrong. This will not be the story which you are expecting and it was certainly not the story which Nancy's hospital wanted to hear.

It's more than three years since I picked up a book called Direct Red. It was a whim, as medical memoirs don't usually float my boat, but once I started I simply couldn't put it down. There wasn't a superfluous word in the book and it was wise and non-judgemental, thought-provoking and enlightening. Picking up Dirty Work wasn't a whim - I was excited to know what Gabriel Weston could do in her fiction debut. I read it in one sitting, completely incapable of doing anything other than turning the pages.

Weston still practices as an ENT surgeon and her knowledge has obviously informed her writing, but Dr Nancy Mullion is a gynaecologist and some of the work which she does as a surgeon is at the contentious end of the spectrum. She could have opted not to do it, but didn't make that choice. Mullion is an abortion provider and Weston pulls no punches in what she tells us of the work and the effect on those providing the service. I've long maintained that the worst point about war is not that we put people in a situation where they could be killed - but that we might be putting them in a position where they could be required to kill. After reading Dirty Work I've wonder why I restricted my thinking to the battlefield. It's a book with repercussions.

It isn't, though, a book written from just the one angle. It's brilliantly constructed so that you see numerous views, from the parents of a woman who has had an abortion through to the other - uninvolved - staff in the hospital. My mind was forced into corners long unvisited and I've changed my mind about a long-held belief. It isn't an easy read - in places it's harrowing - but it's informing and totally compelling.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you haven't read Direct Red then you should. You might also enjoy Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese and Oxygen by Carol Cassella.

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Buy Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston at Amazon.com.

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