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The Doctor's Wife

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  305 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The role of the Japanese woman in modern society still retains many of the characteristics that it had in the late eighteenth century, when this novel takes place. In those days, the life of a woman, whether married or single, was one of unending drudgery and toil. Reward or recognition came only indirectly, through the success of the male members of the family.

Thus, this
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Paperback, 174 pages
Published February 6th 2004 by Kodansha USA (first published 1978)
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Community Reviews

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umberto
I first read Sawako Ariyoshi’s “The River Ki” (Kodansha, 2004) in June last year, this is her second novel I read and found it inspiring due to her powerful narration and lively dialogs that focus on “the life of the first doctor in the world to perform surgery for breast cancer under a general anesthetic” (back cover). From her two novels, I noticed, they primarily don’t suggest romance, ideal or sentimentality; rather they present something social, practical, rural in which her characters stru ...more
Chairein Ferras
I like the competition for Hanaoka Seishu's attention and affection between Otsugi (the mother) and Kae (the wife). At first, they were like mother and daughter but as Seishu finishes medical school and comes back from Kyoto, the relationship between Otsugi and Kae starts to fall apart. Seishu discovered the tsusensan, an anesthetic. Before the anesthetic's widespread popularity and efficacy, Seishu had been experimenting on either Otsugi and Kae. It's so funny how Otsugi brags to Kae about bein ...more
El
This Ariyoshi book starts with Kae as a young woman and follows her through the rest of her life, primarily focusing on her marriage to the noted surgeon Hanaoka Seishu. He was a real surgeon in the 18th-century who made his name for, amongst other things, being the first to perform surgery using a general anesthetic, and specifically for using the anesthetic for breast cancer surgery. This fictionalized account of their life together is fascinating not only from a medical standpoint but also fr ...more
Daniel
The prose was clear and straightforward, similar to a journalistic account. Ariyoshi employs a third-person omniscient approach and to focus on the motivations of the Mother of the house and her Daughter-and-law, who vie with one another for the attentions of the eldest son (and, in the Daughter's case, her husband). Much of the tension in the book draws from the sustained misunderstanding between Mother and Daughter, both of whom take for granted the idea that one is trying to outdo the other.

T
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Powersamurai
A powerful book about two women's fight to gain the attention of one man: a mother-in-law and wife. The secondary story is about one doctor's search for an anaesthetic so he can perform operations, especially for breast cancer. Hanaoka Seishu successfully developed the anaesthetic before the West and used it for the first time to operate on breast cancer. This book does not read like a translation from the original Japanese. It is an easy read and it's simplicity draws you in from the beginning.
Kimberly
I've read this in both English and Japanese. Its unbelievable, and truly one of those books that will shake your core. If I remember correctly parts of this are based on fact, but its mostly fiction. Still, what the wife and her mother-in-law endure for the love of one man and his mission to improve medical science is unfathomable. Great for those who want to understand more about the plight of women in Japanese society before the turn of the 20th century as well as family life.
Michael Havens
“The Doctor's Wife' by Sawako Ariyoshi is a good novel, though with a problematic element inherent in it. While the main story revolves around Kae, who is married into the Dr. Seishu Hanaoka and his family, especially her mother-in-law, Otsugi, with whom she has a contemptuous and oftentimes, competitive relationship, to the point that each woman is willing to destroy their own bodies for the sake of the husband/son's success as a doctor, who is trying to find a way to create an anesthetic in or ...more
Rosalio
Sawako Ariyoshi's The Doctor's Wife was enjoyable in that it was simply written whether that's due to Ariyoshi's writing or the way it was translated, either way it was a quick and smooth read.

The narrative of The Doctor's Wife consists of two intertwined parts. The first part, mostly factual, is over how Hanaoka Seishu was able to concoct an anesthetic and how he was the first to be successful in surgically removing a tumor caused by breast cancer. The second part, mostly fictional, revealed th
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BoekenTrol
The book was already sitting on my shelves for a long time, before I got to read it. As it sometimes goes, it seemed a very interesting book to me, so I bought it. And then I did not read it, up to now.

And I was impressed. Impressed by the story itself that is about a doctor's family that denies herself everything to make it possible for the son, Unpei, to study medicine. About the indefatigable quest of that country doctor for further ways and means to heal the sick. At first by bringing just t
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Felix Zilich
Сэйсю Ханаока – легенда японской медицины. Первый хирург в современной истории, совершивший операцию под общим наркозом. Гений, вундеркинд, инноватор и просто умница. Жил в глухой японской деревне на рубеже XVIII и XIX веков, но пытался совмещать передовые знания западных врачей и тайны древней китайской медицины. Создал уникальный эликсир для наркоза, открыл собственную медицинскую школу, посадил дерево и еще чего-то.

Разумеется, японцы должны были написать и снять про этого человека что-нибудь
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Ana
I'm still not sure how Ms. Ariyoshi managed to cram so much life into such a small book.

Based on the true story of the first person to come up with reliable surgery anesthesia - decades before someone in the West came up with the same - this novel seems to say more in one page than other books say in chapters.

It's based on the historical figure Seishu Hanaoka but it's really all about the relationship between his young wife and his mother and the mostly unknown contribution (and sacrifice) they
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Eliza
Interesting to read about how surgery came about in Japan. The characters were not that well developed though, it read like the work of a new author.
Blair Reeve
A novel set in the Tokugawa era of Japan. One of the author's main motivations for this book may have been to right an historical wrong - that is, to show the story behind the story of Hanaoka Seishu, one of the first doctors in the world to operate on breast cancer using an anesthetic. This story adds to the largely untold story of the women of the Tokugawa period. It's an easy but never boring read. The crux of the novel rests on a daughter and mother-in-law who argue in front of their husband ...more
Liz Vega
A very detailed story about the role of women in advancing medicine.
Yuji Mizushima
So much drama in such a small book..
Diego Munoz
I enjoyed this book.

It is the story of the wife of the first doctor to have ever performed open surgery sing anesthesia. What makes it interesting is the relationship between the wife and the mother in law, and about how they compete to help the doctor.

The last couple of chapters provide a lot of insight, and made me appreciate the book even more.

Strange to compare, but like Gatsby, I felt that this book was much better after I finished it, and I could appreciate it as a whole work and statement
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Cynthia Cheney
A high level Toyota executive suggested I read this novel to better understand their culture. It is based on a true story. The conflict of wife and mother and their physical sacrifice was unsettling. A Japanese Capricorn.
Sarah
Nov 29, 2008 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Molly
It gives a good picture of a collectivist society - how half the dilemma of making decisions is in how it will reflect on the people you're related to or involved with.

The role of women in the late eighteenth century Japan was definitely one of being on the sidelines. Everything they do in the book revolves around the man.

Nice job creating a story around a true situation.
Jenny
The relationship between the mother and the wife of a Japanese Doctor forms the basis for a very interesting historical novel about the development and use of anesthesia in Japanese medicine several decades before its first use in the West. The development of the adversarial relationship between the two women is almost overshadowed by the historical information.
Mustafa Hmood
A good insight into the Japanese society in the 17th and early 18th century.
Jess
I like the idea of this story, but there wasn't much to it and I found myself annoyed at the characters throughout, they weren't sympathetic. Glad it was short.
Jill
The story itself is good but the translation made it a really elementary with an overly simplistic style.
Sidney
Interesting for the medical information as well as the look at nineteenth century Japanese marriage.
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Born in Wakayama City and a graduate of Tokyo Women's Christian College, Sawako Ariyoshi spent part of her childhood in Java. A prolific novelist, she dramatises significant issues in her fiction such as the suffering of the elderly, the effects of pollution on the environment, and the effects of social and political change on Japanese domestic life and values, especially on the lives of women. He ...more
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