A healthy mind in a healthy body
I thought I was the only one! How wrong can you get?
Historical fiction with a focus on medicine seemed an extremely niche genre so I was astounded to find a whole swathe of fascinating novels on that very subject. When writing about a specific condition in the 1920s, I did a great deal of academic research. My challenge was to use what I had learned in a way that would interest the readers, not make them glaze over. The best way to do that is by studying the masters. Happily, doctors, medicine, procedures, breakthroughs and ethics all feature in some terrific novels from all over the world. For your introduction to this rich seam, I’ve chosen ten in roughly chronological order.
The Beacon at Alexandria – Gillian Bradshaw
In the 4th century Greece, women may not become doctors. So Charis disguises herself as a eunuch and flees to the centre of learning.
The Physician – Noah Gordon
An orphaned boy with a strange gift yearns to study medicine and must travel to 11th century Persia in order to fulfil his dream.
The Cadfael Chronicles – Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter
Brother Cadfael is a herbalist, detective, doctor, observer and late monastic convert, investigating murder mysteries in the 12th century.
Restoration – Rose Tremain
The title is both a reference to the reign of King Charles II and the character transformation of Sir Robert Merivel, a physician, popinjay and opportunist.
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Nurse Claire Randall finds herself transported through time from post-war 1945 to Scotland in 1743, where her skills come in handy but her attitude does not.
Accabadora – Michela Murgia
Childless Bonaria adopts Maria, a little girl whose mother cannot feed another mouth. The relationship works well, but Bonaria’s role in society gradually becomes apparent.
The Anatomy of Deception – Lawrence Goldstone
A mesmerising forensic thriller that thrusts the reader into the operating rooms, drawing rooms, and back alleys of 1889 Philadelphia.
The Dark Circle – Linda Grant
London-born twins diagnosed with tuberculosis are sent to a county sanatorium in the fledgling years of Britain’s National Health Service.
The Surgeon’s Daughter – Audrey Blake
Another woman denied an education at home, Eleanora Beady studies in 19th century Bologna, Italy, working alongside a pioneer in Caesarian birth procedures.
Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
An epic novel of two brothers, born conjoined, who grow up in the ‘Missing’ Hospital of Addis Ababa. The role of doctors and medicine in their lives is all-pervasive.
My own contribution to this field of historical fiction with a focus on medicine is titled SALT of the EARTH and comes out on October 6.
1917-1922 were tumultuous years on the world stage. Meanwhile, ordinary people were quietly making a difference. Based on a true story, this is historical fiction with a dash of romance.
Pre-order yours here: https://geni.us/AMZ_Salt_of_the_Earth