Showing posts with label surgery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surgery. Show all posts

The Physic Garden on Special Offer Today

The Physic Garden is on a surprise, special offer sale today and it is positively galloping up the charts, which is very nice to see! I can now call myself a Kindle bestseller, having had two books in the bestseller charts in the last couple of months. The other was the Curiosity Cabinet and it might be true to say that if you enjoy one of these books, you might enjoy the other - although I suspect The Curiosity Cabinet is an easier and slightly more 'romantic' read than The Physic Garden which is a rather more serious proposition altogether.

Still, I always try hard to make my fiction readable. I'm not one of those who subscribes to the notion that something has to be obscure and experimental to be genuinely literary. I'd rather the reader could both enjoy the book as a book - but perhaps take something away afterwards. In this case, people have told me that it has made them think a bit about betrayal and forgiveness and how they themselves feel about past troubles. But it has also made people consider medicine and surgery, about how we got where we are today, about the price of knowledge and the getting of wisdom. All of which makes me happy. But it wouldn't make me happy if that came at the price of a book that many people didn't also enjoy reading as a story.

It won't suit everyone. No book ever does. One woman's enthralling read can be another's misery. It's a problem for writers only in that we do want to be liked! We spend so long on a novel, living with the characters, that it begins to feel like a much loved child and we feel hurt when somebody tells us that in their considered opinion, this particular offspring has an ugly face and an unlikable personality! 

Anyway, if you're reading this on Thursday 15th May, there's still time to get a cheap download and give The Physic Garden a try.

The Physic Garden - Ten Discussion Points for Book Groups

There has already been some interest in the Physic Garden from various book and reading groups, which is very encouraging for me. I do feel that it might be a good read for a book group in that it raises a great many issues - issues, moreover, that I can imagine might be quite contentious. Not that it's really an 'issue based' novel. It's a novel in which character is central, a story of friendship and betrayal. It is, now that I come to think about it, a novel with a reliable narrator - but reliable (and lovable) as William is, it's also about his struggle, in old age, to come to terms with the traumatic events of his youth. Although it's undoubtedly quite a literary novel, it's accessible too. And, I hope, readable.

It was favourably reviewed in the Sunday Times this week, which delighted me. It has had wonderful, thoughtful reviews elsewhere, but the Sundays have so many submissions and, on the whole, they review so little fiction that just being noticed seems like an additional achievement!

I've come up with ten points that might be used to spark debate. I'm sure readers will have their own. And I'm anxious not to prescribe any single 'right' response to the novel. All stories are recreated over and over in the minds of individual readers and that's just as it should be. But do feel free to save and copy these and use them in whatever way seems most helpful to you. I'm sure readers will have plenty of additional questions and opinions of their own. I should add that I've tried very hard NOT to add any spoilers. There's nothing in here that you probably couldn't deduce from reading about the book. But if you're in any way worried about it - stop reading now! 

1 The Physic Garden has been described as a ‘beautiful, elegant expression of betrayal’. The author herself has characterised the novel as being about friendship and betrayal. What do you think are the big themes of the book?

2. How did you feel about the novel’s two main characters, William Lang and Thomas Brown? Was your sympathy entirely with William, or did William’s narration allow you to understand something of what motivated Thomas Brown?

3 Did you anticipate the denouement and how did it affect you? Do you think you would have responded to events in the same way as William?

4 Would you describe this as literary or historical fiction? The author describes various traditional activities such as beekeeping, needlework and foraging, but these are important for the story itself. How far does this help the reader to immerse him or herself in the world of the novel?

5 The novel also focuses on the science of the nineteenth century and on the tensions between medicine and the newly developing skills of anatomy and surgery. Did you find yourself agreeing with William, or – from a 21st century perspective – did you find that Thomas had a more balanced view of potential medical developments?

6 Another reviewer has pointed out that the over-arching theme of the novel is ‘the price of knowledge’. This is a dilemma we still face today. Do you think you might have felt differently if you were living in early 19th century Scotland and how much did the novel make you wonder about this?

7 The women in the novel are a little more shadowy than the men but, since it is written from the perspective of one of those male characters in a patriarchal age, this may be inevitable. How do you feel about historical novels in which female characters are given 21st century qualities and freedoms? Do you think it matters? Does it affect your enjoyment of a novel?

8 William’s ‘voice’ has been described as ‘individual, idiosyncratic’ and ‘flexible enough to express emotions from the happiest to the very blackest.’ What were your feelings about William by the end of the novel? Did you like him? Did you feel that he had led a good life, or that he had missed out on something? If he had been alive today, how do you think things might have played out for him, and would he have been any happier as a result?

9 William points out that knowledge is not always the same thing as wisdom. Do you think William has acquired wisdom by the end of the novel? What about Thomas? Apart from his final letter, we only have William’s perspective on him. How much do you think that last letter helps to explain earlier events?

10 William also says of his friend Thomas that ‘it can be a peculiar curse and a burden to be a man whom people love. Better by far to be a man who loves unconditionally.’ Do you think this is true, and if so, why?