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Touching Distance

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  94 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
It is 1790. After ten years’ training in the great medical schools of Europe, Alec Gordon has returned to Scotland to take up the post of physicianin the Aberdeen Dispensary. Alec has ambitious plans for modernizing medical practice in the town, starting with the local midwives, whose ignorance and old-fashioned methods appal him.

But Alec’s dreams of progress are thrown in
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Pan Macmillan (first published April 30th 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 183)
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Patricia Bracewell
Rebecca Abrams’ novel is about an 18th century doctor’s efforts to turn ignorance into knowledge, and it is based on real events. It is absorbing reading – a story beautifully told yet agonizingly vivid in its depiction of labor and childbirth in a time when the transmission of disease from victim to victim was not understood. The underlying tension in the novel stems from the modern reader’s grasp of that connection even while that knowledge remains just out of the reach of the physician, Alex ...more
Aug 15, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkably crafted and finely balanced novel, which has both a vivid setting and an intensely personal tale. The author weaves the details of different threads of the personal lives of the main characters that bring Alec and Elizabeth Gordon to life within the world of 1790 Aberdeen. She captures the feel of life in a different time, without ever losing the details and depth of Alec and Elizabeth's lives. The novel effectively relates how time does not necessarily move in one direction ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Leona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book - well written and researched, based on a true story of actual events in Aberdeen, Scotland around 1790. Excellent descriptions of what the city was like at the time, sounds,smells and sights. Uncovered a bit more about other elements of history that we're going on at that time too, making it feel more alive. Found the subject matter fascinating but the last few chapters felt to me a bit sentimentally indulgent. However I could understand that they were as much part of ...more
Yvann S
Apr 15, 2011 Yvann S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summary: Talented young doctor Alec Gordon is mystified by a fever killing otherwise healthy new mothers. His methods to treat it are greeted with scepticism and are mostly unsuccessful. His accounts show that he is treating many more patients than can afford to pay for his services, and his colleagues at the hospital are not keen on his candour and lack of politics. At home, his wife is struggling with depression and flashbacks of her life in the West Indies. Based on a true story.

I know that t
Sep 08, 2012 Ceri rated it it was amazing
Took some getting into, partly because it kept ringing bells & I thought I might have read it before. But once I was into it I thought it was excellent. It's about a doctor in the 1700's who makes a study of womaen dying in an epidemic of puerpural fever (hope I spelt that right "childbed fever") He comes to the inescapable conclusion that it is spread by contact not by any magical or vaporous means & tries to speak out. Unfortunately the world is not ready for this news. The local medic ...more
Apr 17, 2014 Anthea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really disappointing. Had such potential. Interesting and intriguing but not enough character development.
Apr 21, 2015 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, but found the West Indies stuff quite unnecessary and found the wife really annoying.
Jul 30, 2011 Josephine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and sad book based on the life story of Alexander Gordon. I had no idea of the dreadful dangers of having children in the seventeenth century and indeed even up to the beginning of the twentieth century! The struggle of this man and person sacrifice he made to try and overcome the ignorance of the midwives and even his fellow physicians was really sad. Thank goodness that eventually someone took heed of his findings.
The third-person viewpoint was a bid awkward and I never felt very intrigued by the story. I enjoyed the mystery of figuring out why there was an outbreak of "childbed fever" and appreciated the historical research on that topic, but the rest of the book fell a bit flat and the ending had a bit of an odd "As you know, Bob" type of solution.
Hilary Lang Greenebaum
oh my - what a sad story (based on true story too!) very intense and disgusting pre - germ theorey gore. However it is quite fascinating and a celebration of the Drs determination for accurate medical knowledge based on evidence. Read if you don't mind descriptions of illness & suffering.
Feb 12, 2010 Sammie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on true events, this book doesn't hold back on the medical details. If you are in the latter terms of pregnancy - I suggest you stay away from this book for now!

A very engaging read, a great medical mystery with all the human interest you could ask for.
I enjoyed this book. Picked it up at a bookstore here in England after reading the description on the back cover. I liked that it was based off a true experience, and I thought the author did a nice job of portraying the struggles that the main character faced.
Mar 15, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a while to get into it, seemed to jump around a bit too much. However interesting story, incredible to consider how much medicine has changed over the past 200 odd years.
Dec 22, 2013 Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating picture of life at the time that really brings home what it was like to live with primitive medical care.
✿ Deni
Dec 12, 2011 ✿ Deni rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
Nice idea for a story but for me, told the wrong way... I found it extremely boring and I didn't like the characters one bit :o(
Jun 12, 2012 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Abrams first novel is forgettable and the plot is often confused. There are loose ends and the characters lack depth.
Wendy Armstrong
Jun 05, 2015 Wendy Armstrong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant book
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