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About a year ago I read my first novel by Sara Fraser ' The Workhouse Doctor' with mixed views on it. I always try and reserve judgement on an author until I have read at least two books by them. So finally here is my second review on this author work with the novel that preceded that one called 'The Surgeons Apprentice' which was written in 2001.
==About the author:==
Sara Fraser is a pseudonym used by Roy Clews. In his younger days he was a Foreign Legionnaire, a Marine Commando, an actor and a stuntman, in these capacities he has travelled all over the World. Under this assumed name he has written 27 plus a Maguire six under Roy Clews.
==Synopsis of the book:==
The year is 1841 and in Warwickshire James Kerr has joined his Uncle Dr Nairn as his new Apprentice. It will take him three years to learn how to become a Doctor and a lot of studying, watching and practice for him to be able to practice himself. And despite passing out at the first operation he witnessed, his Uncle has high hopes for this clever and thoughtful man.
This is a harsh country and Doctors are only used by those who can afford to pay for them, with disease and suffering being commonplace. In the course of his work working with his Uncle James visits the Salt Mine owner's wife who is slowly dieing. She is cared for by their daughter Liddy who is beautiful and James feels an immediately attraction to her, but his advances to her are rejected as she sees the need to look after her sick mother. While trying to support her father who is drinking too much, while the business is now in trouble and needs financial support.
The story follows, James and Liddy as their lives change as their worlds alter with new challenges hitting them both in their personal and professional lives.
==My thought on this novel:==
Overall I thought this was an average historical adventure story. Which is about the same as I thought about the previous story I read from this writer. My main reason for thinking this was I found the story quite disjointed and I found it seemed to follow different characters practically at random forgetting all about the Surgeon's Apprentice, which is what I thought it would be all about.
When I first picked up the book I was quite hopeful and I thought with both James and Liddy on the front cover this could be some sort of love story. Especially after reading the summary on the inside cover. This was two paragraphs long and I thought it set the scene well as I was interested to learn what life was like during this difficult period.
When the story began it was all about James Kerr and his experiences learning how to become a Doctor. I found this interesting, if a little, hard and stark. The author for me explained how hard it was for the lower classes during this period excellently. And I enjoyed seeing how the young man needed guiding and found the whole business at times shocking.
I for my part found some of these parts a little too well explained and as for once I did not want to know in too much detail what the Surgeon was doing. Especially when their was nothing at the time to knock the patient out and James was forced to endure the cries of pain from the patient and try and hold them in position so that the operation could be carried out. I liked James's outlook to life and his dedication for his chosen career.
The story then moved to share Libby's and her families experience during what was increasingly becoming a difficult time for them all. Again sadly this was interesting. because I kept waiting for things to improve for them all. But then I expected the story to come straight back to James but it moved onto the Salt Pit's benefactor and the couple that ran the local workhouse, so I kind of lost the plot.
I suppose I expected the book to be all about the title of the story and although from time to time it did return to James's new life it was not the main feature and increasingly seemed to become less important as the story moved on. For me the story started to involve too many characters without focusing enough on any of them to allow the reader to get a real feel about how they where feeling and proper descriptions of their surroundings. As I result I felt a little removed from the story and it was not as enjoyable as I had hoped for.
That said it did explain to me a lot of the background to the next novel in the series and help me make sense of what was going to happen. It's just if this had been my first experience of this author I think I would have been confused as to why his main character James Kerr had played only a minor role in the second half of the book. And I certainly believe you need to read all of these books to fully appreciate the complete picture and that reading this one alone would not make too much sense and leave you ultimately feeling disappointed.
The two main characters are James Kerr and Libby Landser and I expected bearing in mind their mutual attraction that this would be a love story between them. And I kept expecting there to be a real passion between them, but circumstances seemed to dictate otherwise. As it always work against them and against all my usual miserable feelings on relationships I found myself wanting them to get together and find happiness in eachother arms.
James was a fascinating character and I very quickly found I liked his questioning nature and his new experiences he shared with the reader. I found his insecurities about himself and his new world refreshing and very easy to understand and relate to. He seemed a decent enough man and he was clearly in need of educating by his Uncle how things worked for a Doctor in the community and I found his naïve attitude easy to understand. It was just a shame the author did not continue to focus the story on him, as there were many experiences I think the author could have shared about his exploits, it felt the surface had only been scratched. I think really the whole story should have just focused on him and his education into this new world.
Liddy, I found very easy to like, understand and sympathise with. Things where going badly for her and her family and I kept wanting things to improve for her. I will say no more as to what happens to her than that. I thought she was an excellent character and I really liked her deep, thoughtful and caring nature. I found her unselfish nature compelling but sometimes her naivety frustrating!!
I found the book was well paced with plenty of unexpected twists and turns to enjoy in a dark and hard time for the majority of the population. And because of clear signposting I never got lost in the story and always immediately new with each new chapter who we where following and how long had elapsed. I just thought the author by including and adding new characters throughout the story lost the main point of the story and I felt having completed the book that I had progressed little in the career in 'The Surgeon's Apprentice'.
It was quite a gentle read in the sense that it lacked the depth that I would have hoped for. But at times I was grateful for this especially when the focus was on cutting up a patient!! As a snapshot of the hardness and often cruel life people experienced it was an interesting read and I certainly think I learnt a little from it.
When I looked at web sites for this book I could only find it in Hardback version, which will make it an expensive purchase, and in my opinion one that is not worth the extra price. The best way to purchase it in my opinion is second hand at a Car Boot Sale or a Charity Shop.
I thought this was an average piece of fiction. I thought the author got too carried away introducing both new concept and characters and should have focused on the main character. Having read two books in the series I think I would have preferred a whole book on each of the main characters during these times and then there would have been a greater opportunity to learn all about them. As I felt this story really lacked focus with all it's flitting about.
Price: £17.99 New at Amazon
Publisher: Severn House
Year of Publication: 2001
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPT DANIELS December 2011.