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The Doctor is Sick

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  792 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Dr. Edwin Spindrift has been sent home from Burma with a brain tumor. Closer to words than to people, his sense of reality is further altered by his condition. When he escapes from the hospital the night before his surgery, things and people he hardly knew existed outside of his dictionaries swoop down on him as he careens through adventures in nighttime London.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1960)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,665)
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MJ Nicholls
May 15, 2013 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This rambunctious brain-surgery-gone-bad comedy is the liveliest and most schizophrenic novel from Burgess yet. The professor protagonist Edwin is scheduled for a brain operation from an eccentric trumpet-playing doctor, but after his head is shaved for the procedure, flees the hospital into an underworld of kettle-selling sadomasochists, phonetic Cockney wideboys, German vamps, bald-headed men competitions, and promiscuously adulterous wives. Rich in various dialects (East London to German to S ...more
Dec 21, 2011 Tosh rated it liked it
In many ways "The Doctor is Sick" is very much like "A Clockwork Orange," Burgess' mega-hit novel. The structure of the main character going through a difficult journey is the same -and confronting surreal or out-of-wack situations via the journey is part of the fun in both Burgess books. Also I think the main draw to Burgress' work is his language play. Here is an author who loves the accent of the local population - and being set in London, its highly an adventure to accents and class structur ...more
Jun 15, 2011 Kayleigh rated it really liked it
I had a tough time getting into this book although I could appreciate Burgess's dry sense of humour and unique use of words. It wasn't until about page 50 (of a 240 page book) that I really began to get into the rhythm of it and from them on I devoured it as quickly as I could. The plot of the story is really pretty simple. Dr Edwin Spindrift is a linguistics professor at a university in Burma and is thoroughly wrapped up in his work. His wife has multiple affairs (due to an agreement met betwee ...more
Aug 02, 2007 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: linguists, etymologists, speakers of british cockney and
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Burgess is a master of language and wit, and the dialogue in this book is wonderful. The story is great and filled with humor as the hero delves deeper and deeper into a society of which he knows nothing and fits into not at all.
Nov 15, 2008 Tadmad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very funny book. You will enjoy it in a bit different way if you know that A. Burgess was diagnosed with a brain tumor that time, and went through all the most unpleasant brain checks himself.
Raile Bell
May 27, 2014 Raile Bell rated it liked it
Very interesting if you're into allusions, freeform symbolism, and linguistics, possibly less so if not. Like a lot of Burgess, language is key--the man is enamoured with wordplay, and while that's part of why I love him as an author, I suspect he may be nonsensical or just tedious to an unprepared reader.

I'd complain about the ending 'twist,' but it's not the worst thing in the world. Probably better than the alternative, actually. Not my favourite Burgess overall, but certainly not the worst.
Oct 10, 2011 Meave rated it liked it
Recommended to Meave by: KB!
It made me very uncomfortable. The narrator was delightfully, crazily unreliable, and it was so darkly funny it was hardly funny, sometimes. I don't know. I wanted to like it more than I did, but I'm a precious flower and I hate the idea of having nowhere to sleep at night, so when characters choose such a lifestyle, I find it difficult to enjoy the story. Which is stupid, I know.

I never expected to like any Burgess, though, so at least that's over. If I didn't need so much to identify with a ch
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
This is one of my top 3 favorite books of all time--a book I'd want with me on a desert island. (The other two are Gone With The Wind and a book written in the 1950's called Horseracing, but I digress.)

Full of rich language, implausible situations, and intellectual fun, this tale of a PhD who finds himself in the hospital due to a brain tumor is very close to what actually happened in Burgess' life. He was told he had one year to live and subsequently started churning out books. He lived a good
Jul 18, 2008 Benjamin rated it it was ok
Another quirky, absurd, existentialist novel. When the story is coherent, it is an enjoyable read, aided by Burgess' knack for dry wit. Too often, however, I found the story muddled by comedic surrealism that neither engaged the reader nor offered any profound insight into the mind of the main character. I came very close to giving this three stars based on the parts I did enjoy (and based on the fact that other books to which I have given two stars were not as enjoyable as this one), but overal ...more
Jun 21, 2011 Jeremiah rated it liked it
I ended up enjoying this book though it was hard to get into. In a way this is a surreal story, dealing with themes similar to Kafka's Metamorphosis. The subject has taken ill, feels objectified and dehumanized by the medical bureaucracy, and ultimately abandoned by his wife. I always enjoy Burgess's word play and knowledge of etymology - so it helps to have a geeky appreciation of language when approaching his novels.
Feb 18, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A fantastically enjoyable read. Entertaining, whimsical and enlightening(literarily). Burgess has such a knack for creating characters and this book is a prime example of that. Maybe not the most insightful novel of all time, but an instant favorite of mine and one that is well worth the read. I recommend it to any Burgess fan.
Jun 23, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
If you enjoy words (etymology, philology, and so forth) and feel reality is overrated--or at least that being grounded in it is--then this is the book for you. Burgess' prose is extraordinary, but if you're the sort of reader who needs to know which way is up, this particular novel won't fit your taste.
Mar 05, 2016 Avd.Reader rated it really liked it
This was hilarious... though I would not recommend it as reading material for someone who is sick and stuck in a hospital bed.
Harry Mccoy
Nov 24, 2015 Harry Mccoy rated it really liked it
A little dated to be sure, but I can't wait to re-read this next year or later. Very accessible for Burgess, (didn't have to look up anything until the last third!) Poor Edwin. At least I have the comfort of knowing that the brain tumor scared Burgess enough to write, write, write.
Mar 03, 2013 Kent rated it it was ok
I Didn't really get into this book. It was either just not my thing or it was way over my head. It starts making more sense at the end, but for the most part I was happy when I finally finished it. The premise of the book sounded promising, but it just didn't do it for me.
May 19, 2009 Andy rated it did not like it
I didn't get it. I have no idea what happened or why. Is the protagonist crazy? Is it the world that's crazy? Was it all a dream? Someday in the not too distant future, I will pick this book up off my shelf and realize I have absolutely no memory of it whatsoever.
Aug 08, 2008 Andrew rated it it was ok
I read this in the heels of A Clockwork Orange - one of my favorite books. I was disappointed. Perhaps under a different situation I would have enjoyed it more.
Emma Lynne
Sep 10, 2010 Emma Lynne marked it as need-to-finish  ·  review of another edition
I can hardly wait until I get to fifty books on my shelf and then I'm going to upload the artwork to this edition. It will be a real treat, I promise!
John Opalenik
Jul 16, 2013 John Opalenik rated it liked it
Not as good as some of Burgess' other works, but a solid novel with some bizarre situations.

I wouldn't read it again, but I'm glad I read it.
Tom Nittoli
Jul 23, 2011 Tom Nittoli rated it really liked it
This being the fourth book I've read from Burgess I have to say I'm more than impressed. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
Trevor Grant
Oct 28, 2013 Trevor Grant rated it really liked it
good thing I read this after studying pholosphy. can be hard to read at times, but funny if you can trudge through the strange parts.
Dec 11, 2009 Xavier rated it really liked it
Yunita Wongso
Dec 07, 2012 Yunita Wongso rated it it was ok
some parts I find fascinating but I couldn't seem to focus on the plot, on the flow. Kind of boring. I couldn't finish it.
Dec 10, 2007 joe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
this is one of the coolest novels i have ever read.
burgess uses language in an entirely unique way.

read it!!!!
May 05, 2013 Jen rated it it was ok
Maybe 2.5 stars. At times I felt I was making myself read to finish. Not something I want in a book.
Jun 13, 2008 Liz rated it it was ok
Worth reading only because Burgess is such a gifted writer. Otherwise, not his best story.
Sep 30, 2012 Sam rated it really liked it
Terribly interesting, brilliant language, intriguing characters.
Ismael Galvan
Mar 19, 2013 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing
Probably one of his best. Didn't he claim it was?
Ed Lehman
Read this the first time 11/15-18/1991.
Seth Miller
Jul 12, 2012 Seth Miller rated it really liked it
Tough at first but ultimately worth it.
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Anthony Burgess was a British novelist, critic and composer. He was also a librettist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, broadcaster, translator, linguist and educationalist. Born in Manchester, he lived for long periods in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England. His fiction includes the Malayan trilogy (The Long Day Wanes) on the dying days o ...more
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