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.

Cover of The Beacon at Alexandria

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.

Cover of Restoration
Cover of Outlander

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.

Cover of The Anatomy of Deception
Cover of The Surgeon's Daughter

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

Cover of Salt of the Earth

    3 replies to "Mens sana in corpore sano"

    • JJ Marsh

      Cover design for SALT of the EARTH is by JD Smith Design.

    • Suzie

      Thanks for this blog, a really appreciated new rabbit hole to dive down for this delighted book wyrm!

    • D K Ivens

      Love this list – thanks! Delighted to see Brother Cadfael listed here! A favourite of mine from years ago. I’m looking forward to reading The Physician. And of course, I cannot wait to read your newest offering, Salt of the Earth!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.