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Book review: Granta 120: Medicine. Edited by John Freeman

Granta is a quarterly literary magazine championing new writing and covering areas from politics, to adultery to cricket. It prides itself on tackling important topics in diverse ways, and last month it launched its most recent edition – Granta 120 on medicine; a combination of fiction, memoirs and photos.

Granta 120, is certainly not a ‘must-read’ book for GPs, but it provides an interesting diversion from a standard medical text.  For anyone with an enjoyment of the more arty side of life however, this anthology of stories, memoirs, poems and art has a medical angle to it that is both thought-provoking and intriguing.

Highlights include a harrowing portrait of MJ Hyland’s diagnosis with MS that gives a terrifying yet inspiring insight into her journey with this condition, and a moving, compassionate story by Linda H. Davis about a young man with autism (Randy and Mummy at The Drawbridge).  Brad Feuerhelm’s collection of photographs demands attention, boldly depicting a hirsute boy, elastic-limbed girls, skeletons and scarred bodies.

In ‘My Heart’, Semezdin Mehmedinovic describes experiencing and recovering from a heart attack aged 50 and Rose Tremain’s extract from ‘Merivel’ graphically narrates a historic excision of a breast cancer – done under only partial anaesthesia in the patient’s home!

A quote from Ike Anya’s reflection on providing a medical service in Nigeria says it all really: “You must always keep an open mind, in this business.  Always be ready to be challenged.”

As the press release for this edition of Granta said: ‘Sometimes the best medicine is a story itself’.  Enjoy.

7/10

Dr Natalie Smith is a GP Registrar (ST3) at The Manor Surgery in Headington, Oxford

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