Book review: The Lady Doctor
Dr Patricia Cantley reviews
Some books are more embarrassing to read than others. ‘The Lady Doctor’ is one of those that will have you laughing out loud on the bus, crying on the sofa and saying to your spouse that he’ll have to read it himself to understand! Written as a comic, or graphic novel, Ian Williams takes us on a short journey with the main character through a tricky chapter in her life.
Graphic it certainly is, as we follow Lois through the highs and lows of her work, both in general practice and in the local GUM clinic. We feel her emotions alongside her as she wrestles with the challenges faced dealing with her patients, and we desperately want her to be happy in her private life outside her work.
It is, of course, much more complicated than we expect and, like many of us, she has her vices and her demons to contend with. The story evolves further with the arrival on the scene of her estranged mother, who has needs of her own that catapult something of a hand grenade into Lois’ already troubled existence.
As a reader with my own busy life, it’s sometimes hard to make time for reading, and the printed text can be daunting when there’s always something else requiring your attention. Aha, I thought, a graphic novel will be easier going…
This book had me hooked from the start. Yes, it was indeed accessible and eminently readable, but be warned, it is hard to put down. The only reason it took me more than one sitting to devour it is that I had my own patients to attend to as well.
As they say in scientific circles, it’s an important contribution to the field
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and this description applies perfectly to Ian Williams’ work. My favourite pages were the ones with no words at all… my respect for my GP colleagues was already high, but reached even further as I followed the rich and varied, yet highly stressful work that Lois and her colleague Iwan contend with.
I almost felt sorry for the grumpy senior partner too, and I really really hope he gets a book of his own. If our two stars of ‘The Bad Doctor’ and ‘The Lady Doctor’ have their struggles, Robert must have something eating him up, even if it’s only piles and a bad dose of wind. We also start to know and like some of the ‘difficult’ patients… life is, after all, quite tricky for many people and there is often a back story we aren’t aware of.
If you like your doctors and your heroes to be perfect, then this is NOT the book for you. Just like in Shakespeare, the main protagonists in the stories have character flaws, and are the more relatable as a result. Lois, the Lady Doctor, may be a good (or at least adequate) clinician, but her judgement is at times suspect in the life decisions she makes. This is what makes the book so readable, as we root for her and hope that it will all work out for her in the end.
I loved this book. I’ve already reread it several times and returned again to the story of Iwan in ‘The Bad Doctor’. I enjoyed this book even more, however. Perhaps it was because I related more to Lois than Iwan? Or perhaps it was because it made me laugh out loud more than I cried? Amidst all the troubles and angst, the illustrations of the work at the hospital clinic really do make your jaw drop.
So thank you, Dr Williams. As they say in scientific circles, it’s an important contribution to the field.
I’d recommend ‘The Lady Doctor’ to anyone inside or outside healthcare, but I am certainly adding it to my 'must read' list for anyone considering a career in our profession.
Dr Patricia Cantley Tweets under her married name of Elliott, as @Trisha_the_doc.
'The Lady Doctor' is published by Myriad Editions