Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

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Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The follow up to the brilliant Do No Harm. My expectations were too high, but this is still an interesting and revelatory read, particularly on the state of the NHS.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288/7h54m Date: May 2017
Publisher: W&N
ISBN: 978-1474603867

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It's more than two years since I read Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery but the memories have stayed with me. I had thought then that a book about brain surgery might sound as though I was taking my pleasures too sadly, but the book was superb - and very easy reading and when I heard about Admissions I decided to treat myself to an audio download, particularly as Henry Marsh was narrating. I knew that my expectations were unreasonably high, but how did the book do?

One thing which surprised me about Do No Harm was that despite the subject matter it was an uplifting read, with flashes of dry humour. Admissions is a different beast: it's haunted by death, both in the form of Marsh's worries about his patients and his concerns about his own demise. Marsh actually has a suicide kit - drugs which he's acquired over the years, but he admits that he doesn't actually know if they would still be effective and dreads the thought of coming round to find himself on the business end of a stomach pump. Something I enjoyed in Do Not Harm is that Marsh was slightly anarchic - in Admissions that's exacerbated and the book is more revelatory, particularly about his personal feelings. It's more about Marsh the man than the neurosurgeon, but none the worse for that.

Marsh has now retired as senior consultant neurosurgeon at the Atkinson Morley Wing of St George's Hospital in London. I sensed that he's in that post-retirement phase when you haven't ceased to be who you used to be nor yet become who you now are and his life's a mixture of being a neurosurgeon abroad - in Nepal, Ukraine and Texas - and restoring an abandoned lock keeper's cottage in Oxfordshire. It's a big move to make, particularly for a man whose job was his life, whose job defined him.

If anything Marsh is more irascible, more curmudgeonly than he was in Do No Harm (particularly when speaking about bureaucracy and politicians) , but there are still flashes of his black humour. A lengthy career as a brain surgeon has turned him into a pragmatist : I was occasionally shocked by the ease with which the conclusion would be reached that someone was going to die - but it's experience speaking so what else should I have expected? That's offset by the care and compassion which he has for his patients and his readiness to be critical of, and honest about his own actions.

Marsh is a fine writer with the ability to tell a good story. He has a comedian's sense of timing. His disarming frankness came over well in my audio download, but I'll confess that I regret not having bought the harback instead. Whilst having the author as narrator does ensure that there's not an added layer of interpretation, there were occasions when I wasn't completely clear about what had been said, particularly when he was cross about something. It is, though, a download I'll go back to.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Direct Red by Gabriel Weston.

Buy Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh at Amazon.com.


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