DIRECT RED by Gabriel Weston

Book Quote:

“More fundamental than being a surgeon is being a doctor.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (AUG 31, 2009)

According to Gabriel Weston, author of Direct Red, her thematic account of her training to be a surgeon in London is “not, in the strictest sense, true,” nor are the characters she describes real. She divides her narrative into fourteen brief chapters, each with a one-word title, such as death, beauty, emergencies, and ambition. Although Direct Red is partly based on Weston’s experiences, the events depicted in these pages are fictitious. This is a series of sketches in which the author readily concedes that even the most accomplished and experienced surgeon is imperfect.

Weston confesses that she detests long operations, which can bring her to a state of near collapse. Once, when she scrubbed in with an incompetent general surgeon, she watched him take his time when quick thinking and immediate action might have saved the patient. She eloquently describes death as “the imposter, the unwanted guest, the Banquo,” as she poignantly tells about a twenty-year old with incurable cancer. On the one hand, Weston tries to detach herself from feeling too much for each patient. “No one really wants the doctor weeping by one’s bedside.” On the other hand, she contends that it is the physician’s duty as a human being to be there for those in her care, even when there is nothing that can be done for them medically.

Some of Weston’s chapters are rambling and a few of her opinions are surprising. She asserts that it might be better to let a patient die holding his wife’s hand than to allow him to expire on the operating table while surgeons try to save his life. In certain circumstances, she states, surgeons act as “executioners.” This is a strange notion from someone whose mission it is to heal. Unless a doctor is psychotic, he is not out to kill anyone. Sometimes, and often without warning, an operation fails, and one can hardly blame a competent surgeon for doing his best.

Direct Red offers a candid and brutally blunt look at the chaos, drama, and craziness of medicine, especially in the emergency room, where anything can happen. Some of the stories told here are gory and unpleasant; a few are moving and affecting. Although Weston is proud of her lack of sentimentality, she concludes that “a good surgeon also needs to know how to be gentle.” After reading this uneven and sometimes off-putting book, most people will desperately want to steer clear of hospitals and operating rooms.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 36 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper (August 11, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AMAZON PAGE: Direct Red: A Surgeon’s View of Her Life-or-Death Profession
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Gabriel Weston
EXTRAS: ExcerptThe Guardian interview with Gabriel Westion

Final Exam by Pauline Chen

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

Better by Atul Gawande

Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders


August 31, 2009 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Posted in: Non-fiction

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