Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bedside Stories - Review

What was obviously an addictive and amusing column makes an uneasy transition to paperback here in Michael Foxton's novel, a compilation of his writings during his two-year stint at the Guardian.

Foxton (a nom-de-plume) tells - with gory detail and sensational revelation - of the highs and lows of his life as a Junior Doctor, and his passage from first day as a PRHO, through his rotations (including A+E), culminating with his SHO post in Psychiatry.

Sceptics might claim Foxton tends towards the negative, but having set the standard it is usually difficult, especially in the media, for a leopard to change its spots. The negative side is always going to be the more interesting, the more passionate, and the easier to divulge.

Foxton is amusing, irreverent, pessimistic, bleak, yet insightful. He is unashamed to admit mistakes, which as a reader I found compelling. He is unafraid to lift the mystery surrounding the profession and yet still seems to retain a sense of right and wrong. As a medical student, I found myself relieved that others sometimes feel as bewildered and unconfident as I do - but also that eventually these disappear with experience and age.

Foxton will not appeal to all due to his opinionated nature, and some may feel the book is more of a rant than a story. Indeed 'Bedside Stories' seems an odd choice for a collection of columns that lack cohesion. Links become repetitive and similar points are expressed that make for awkward continuity between passages. At the end of the book, Foxton explains why he stops writing, but then we are presented with an extra column about Gunther Von Hagen's live dissection on TV which provides a clumsy conclusion to the book, which I felt shouldn't have been included, not being in keeping with the other segments.

Overall I enjoyed this book for its dark humour and for the cynical approach to the trade I am to join. I feel any doctor would likely enjoy the book for its 'we've all been there before' mentality, but nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals may feel Foxton arrogant and difficult to digest. I hope my career is not quite as exhausting and persecuting as his!

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