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Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more: What have you been reading this week?

a.s.
Valinor


May 20 2009, 11:22am


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Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more: What have you been reading this week? Can't Post

Feeling all Henry the Fifth this week, for some reason, having re-read a book about Ignaz Semmelweis and his fight to save women from dying in childbirth: Cry and the Covenant by Morton Thompson. This is a book I was assigned to read in my first class as a freshman in nursing school MANY years ago (we'll just avert our eyes from the actual number of decades, all rightie?) and made an indelible impression on me then. I re-read it now with an experienced (perhaps somewhat jaundiced) eye, and still find my pulse racing at the outright horror brought on by the stupidity of medical men of the day (it's OK, guys, the heroes were men, too--although the midwives quietly plying their age-old trade were the unsung heroes all along).

First, the writing. It stinks. I was terribly impressed as a wide-eyed twenty-year old, but find it overwrought, melodramatic, and just plain stinky in parts. It doesn't matter, though. The drama is so compelling and the horror so vivid and real that you will keep turning the page anyway.

I found a contemporary review from The British Medical Library Association that seems to indicate Thompson played a little loose with some of the historical characters. That doesn't matter, either. For anyone who scoffs at the scientific process, take a look at what happened to Semmelweis: he dropped maternal mortality on his wards from appalling and CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT rates like 40-50% down to close to 1% by making the doctors wash their hands and use antisepsis (as known at the time)--and they LOCKED HIM UP IN A MENTAL WARD. Yes, that was me yelling. He begged one simple thing: don't go from the cadavers in the autopsy room who died of childbed fever straight to the maternity wards and do an internal exam WITHOUT WASHING YOUR HANDS. Which was, you know, ordinary medical practice at the time.

The midwives, of course, were too low down on the totem pole to ever have access to cadavers in the first place, and were always washing their hands anyway as standard practice. Women did not die in astounding numbers on their wards, only on the medical wards. In fact, women who delivered in the gutter on the way to the hospital and had no internal exams by any doctor survived in good numbers, too. The medical wards were killing fields for moms, in those times.

He's a hero, now. I hope when he got to heaven and met the souls of the women who died because no one would listen to him, they all gave him a round of applause.

Seriously, if you can find this book, read it. If not, read about Semmelweis, a true hero. Women who deliever in hospitals owe him a big debt, to this day.

So, from melodrama to quiet ordinary human drama written with humor: I read Alexander McCall Smith's latest Mma Ramotswe novel: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. Oh my. I love these books. I wish there were hundreds. I wish Smith had started writing them thirty years ago so I could read dozens a year. I dread the day when I am holding the last one published. Nothing really much happens in Tea Time, even the "mystery" solved by the lady detectives isn't much, this time. But we learn what happens to the tiny white van, and we see Mma Ramotswe at her most vulnerable and loving. A+. Well, really, ungradable. Just great.

I also finished an audiobook version of What Was Lost, an interesting first novel by Catherine O'Flynn. Very good. Despite the descriptions, this is not really a traditional ghost story, nor a traditional "mystery" or detective story. It's just a moving and believable story about human beings, really, trite as it sounds. Try it!

And that's it for me. Not sure what I'm reading next, I have books on hold at the library and yet my resolution to finish the Barchester Tower series is staring me in the face (Dr. Thorne is on my bedside table getting dusty!) so we'll see what I pick up this week.

But what about you all? What have you been reading this week?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

"If any one had begun to rehearse a History, say not I know it well; and if he relate it not right and fully, shake not thine head, twinkle not thine eyes, and snigger not thereat; much less maist thou say, 'It is not so; you deceive yourself.'"

From: Youth's Behaviour, or, Decency in Conversation amongst Men, composed in French by Grave Persons, for the use and benefit of their Youth. The tenth impression. London, 1672


Subject User Time
Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more: What have you been reading this week? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 20 2009, 11:22am
    *geeky-mama squee!* AlassŽa Eruvande Send a private message to AlassŽa Eruvande May 20 2009, 1:15pm
        Applause! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 20 2009, 2:14pm
        Squeee indeed! Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn May 20 2009, 2:41pm
        Oh, that is just TOO ADORABLE. (n/t) Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower May 20 2009, 7:26pm
        what is WRONG with those AR people!!!??? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 4:25am
    The Gospel of Luke Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 20 2009, 2:26pm
        A big hug for Aunt Dora Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn May 20 2009, 2:43pm
            Same here Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower May 20 2009, 7:10pm
                Interesting! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 21 2009, 3:05am
        Another hug. Kimi Send a private message to Kimi May 20 2009, 10:32pm
        Thanks, guys. Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 21 2009, 2:32am
            Watching this video saved me from doing the same thing :-D Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins May 21 2009, 3:25am
        "Go, and do thou in like manner" are a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 4:19am
        That is so tough. *hug* / GaladrielTX Send a private message to GaladrielTX May 21 2009, 5:01pm
        Sorry to hear about Uncle Baggins' job. RosieLass Send a private message to RosieLass May 21 2009, 11:03pm
    Speaking of medical lore...Laurie Garrett, here Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower May 20 2009, 6:42pm
        strange as it may seem, antisepsis was not standard a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 4:40am
    Coraline by Neil Gaiman Ainu Laire Send a private message to Ainu Laire May 20 2009, 7:14pm
        Gaiman Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower May 20 2009, 7:30pm
        It's the ending that gets me. (spoiler?) Laitholiel_the_SeaElf Send a private message to Laitholiel_the_SeaElf May 20 2009, 9:30pm
        Just finished The Graveyard Book by Gaiman. Laitholiel_the_SeaElf Send a private message to Laitholiel_the_SeaElf May 20 2009, 9:33pm
    Confessing my secret indulgence. Kimi Send a private message to Kimi May 20 2009, 9:23pm
        it would be a nifty title, though a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 4:45am
            True, that :-) Kimi Send a private message to Kimi May 21 2009, 4:55am
        Excellent! Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn May 21 2009, 2:00pm
        Aha! GaladrielTX Send a private message to GaladrielTX May 21 2009, 5:02pm
    Angry Housewives eating Bon Bons Mar Send a private message to Mar May 21 2009, 1:07am
        how about an occasionally angry working woman eating "no sugar added" ice cream? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 4:43am
            Slightly dispirited public servants eating freddo frogs?// Penthe Send a private message to Penthe May 21 2009, 10:20am
                Now there's a club I would join. / Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua May 21 2009, 7:30pm
                    I had to Google "Freddo Frogs", but now I agree to join, too! // a.s. Send a private message to a.s. May 21 2009, 10:32pm
        I just read that too (see below) and enjoyed it very much. Elberbeth Send a private message to Elberbeth May 21 2009, 4:26pm
    A Canticle for Lebowitz CAhobbit Send a private message to CAhobbit May 21 2009, 5:44am
        I have the same issue with that book. Ettelewen Send a private message to Ettelewen May 21 2009, 3:46pm
    The Children's Book by AS Byatt Penthe Send a private message to Penthe May 21 2009, 10:28am
    Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo May 21 2009, 2:58pm
    Last week I read a "heroic fantasy" Elberbeth Send a private message to Elberbeth May 21 2009, 4:15pm
    Finished Julie & Julia GaladrielTX Send a private message to GaladrielTX May 21 2009, 5:12pm

 
 
 

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