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So I finished book five this afternoon, and it’s not the book I started out reading as book five. Earlier this week, I left The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear in the bedroom where my husband was sleeping after his graveyard shift. I didn’t want to wake him, so I grabbed a book that I had picked up at the thrift store (yes, another thrift store find) and started reading it instead.

Death on the Learning Curve, by Pierce Scranton, MD, is a fictionalized account of the author’s year of internship at a teaching hospital, based on the diary that he kept during that time. The book follows Ned Crosby on his rotations in the hospital in the early 70’s, including time on the surgical, orthopedics, and neurosurgery teams, interspersed with snippets of Doctor Crosby’s present musings on his past. Throughout the course of the book, questions are raised about medical ethics, treatment protocols, and the training of medical residents. Interpersonal dramas between the interns, doctors, and nurses are also included in the storyline.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The descriptions of the medical cases are pretty graphic and gripping, but the interpersonal dramas and musings are less smoothly written. I appreciated the non-politically-correct authenticity of the story, once I got over being offended at some of the descriptions and events in the book (smoking Cuban cigars in the ER, for instance). Something else that bothered me with this book was the style. In the storyline, the older/current Dr. Crosby is reading his diary and musing on the cases and the changes in medicine. The “diary” sections, however, are also written in the third person, which didn’t fit with the flow of the book.

Even with the faults, I enjoyed the book. I generally enjoy medical fiction and nonfiction, and the medical parts of this book were more than good enough to make up for the nonmedical portions. The contrast between medicine in the 1970’s and now is amazing. The descriptions of medical procedures are thorough, and the key patients are written as humans rather than charts and treatments. If you enjoy medical stories, this book is worth a read.

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