The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
Published by Random House, 2011
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
I was left feeling largely apathetic towards this, with almost everything I enjoyed about it being cancelled out by something I didn’t. Obreht’s prose is very nice at times, but the disjointed narrative structure stopped me from getting into the flow of the story. The heavy use of magical realism and allegory allowed for some striking imagery, but kept me at arms’ length with regards to the characters; often lacking enough thematic parallels to feel justified. And whilst there were lots of interesting ideas and plot threads at play, I came away from the book lacking a satisfying sense of closure for most of them. Altogether, I found this overly long and too elusive to feel any kind of emotional attachment, becoming a book I was reading to get through, rather than one I felt compelled to explore or contemplate.
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Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
Published by Picador, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This follow up to This is Going to Hurt collects more diaries from Kay’s time as a junior doctor, only this time the entries are taken specifically from the seven festive periods he worked. I actually enjoyed this one more than its predecessor. It sets out to make the same core points (that NHS staff are fallible human beings; that their work requires huge amounts of personal sacrifice; that better emotional support systems need to be put in place for doctors; and that the system itself is being criminally underfunded). Being more compact this time, however, these points were unaffected by the blight of diminishing returns.
The ties to the festive period also add extra poignancy; reminding us that life – and indeed death – go on as normal on hospital wards across the country while the rest of us relax, indulge, and celebrate. If there’s ever a time of year we should remember to be grateful to those propping up the NHS from the frontline, it’s Christmastime. Kay’s trademark sarcasm continues to add some much-needed light to the darkness, but in this case, I found the humour less forced – another bonus! This is well worth picking up if you enjoyed This is Going to Hurt, or if you fancy a more condensed version of the same ideas, with a festive twist and an extra dash of resonance.