Blood Work is a non-fictional account of the first blood transfusions which took place in England and France during Scientific Revolution in the 1600s...moreBlood Work is a non-fictional account of the first blood transfusions which took place in England and France during Scientific Revolution in the 1600s. If you've ever read any historical fiction or non-fiction from this period and onwards through the 1800s, you'll notice odd medical practices like blood-letting for illnesses. Leeches, draining, and more were done to bring the body back into balance through the humors. If you've never heard of this practice, I think it's mentioned in at least one of Jane Austen's novels. Holly Tucker also notes that George Washington had this practice done. Wow. Never knew that.
When blood transfusions were first thought up and carried out by the curious and educated, I find it odd that they didn't see it as a way to make up for lost blood, but as another way of treating an illness of the body or mind. I loved how these men pursued the quest for knowledge and how England and France kind were in kind of a scientific war over this. Quiet fascinating and at times very disgusting. I have to admit that I felt so sorry for all the animals that were worked on during their practices. But they eventually moved on to humans and this is where most of the drama unfolds. Blood transfusion became a religious, moral, and national problem. Transferring blood between human and animal or even human and human might possible interfere with a person's soul and even worse turn someone into a hybrid with animal and human characteristics! Or so they believed.
History books like these are the type I adore. It's well research and jammed packed with all sorts of interesting characters and aspects of life during this period. We get a glimpse into the court life of the Sun King, Louis XIV, as his Academy of Sciences opposes blood transfusion. We get a vibrant look at people like Jean-Baptiste Denis who try to make a name for himself by becoming successful at blood transfusion almost at all cost. Henry Oldenburg, a German-born philosopher working in England who is imprisoned because he is a foreigner and therefore suspicious. And one of my favorites, Henri-Martin de la Martinière, who ran away from home as a young boy, became a pirate then physician. I'd love to read more about him. As for the murder...well you'll just have to read the book for that one.
As a side note: I was reading this the other day when I had a doctor's appointment. As I was getting some blood taken, the nurse noticed the book title and asked what it was about. When I told her she looked a little shocked and then asked why I was reading it. That actually made me think. While I totally enjoyed it, it does seem like an odd book to just pick up. Then I read Holly's epilogue and I came to understand what it was. She wrote, "early animal-to-human transfusions were a case study for larger political struggles, religious controversies, and cutthroat ambitions during the late seventeenth century." And it doesn't stop there. She wrote that she became aware that she needed to write this book when she heard President Bush's speech in 2006 wanting to prohibit animal-human embryonic stem cell research. Wow. Is history trying to repeat itself? And that's why I was reading it and enjoying it. It's a fascinating historical tale that provides a new outlook on modern controversies. Thanks Holly!(less)
Small Scottish town in the Highlands in 1950's: a small boy is found dead/drowned in a canal lock one morning. First thought to be an accident, it com...moreSmall Scottish town in the Highlands in 1950's: a small boy is found dead/drowned in a canal lock one morning. First thought to be an accident, it comes out that he was murdered. Although there is not much evidence against him, a Polish man is accused of the accident. He jumped ship and was trying to escape going back to his wrecked and war-torn homeland. The only ones in town really trying to uncover what really happened is the small local newspaper staff.
That's the basic gist of the novel but it was so much more than that. The 1950's small town mentality is really apparent in the story. Joanne, a part-time writer for the newspaper, mother and abused wife can't leave her husband because of the shame and the fear. The town's obvious prejudice and outright accusation of any "others" becomes apparent as they accuse the Polish man, shun his Polish friend, and outcast the town's local Italian newcomers. It's also apparent how bad most of the social systems are: orphanages, elderly people's homes, and prisons.
I think I enjoyed this book though because of the characters and am so glad that there is going to be at least one sequel to the novel which, according A.D. Scott's website is called Tales from the Highland Gazette and will be coming out next year. Joanne's plight and her care of her two daughter who were the last people to see the small boy. The cast of the newspaper: Don, McAllister, and Rob - such great characters. There's a snippet into McAllister's life where his bachelor abode has piles of books everywhere. When Don comes over to his house, here's a quote:
"...grateful that Don hadn't asked if he had read all the books - McAllister had to drop an acquaintance for asking such an inane question..."
Isn't that awesome. I totally get that. There's also a part I loved where at a party they get introduced to American Rock n' Roll and it was just a fun part of the story.
I also loved the Scottish lore, history, and just atmosphere the book has pared with beautiful writing. I will admit that were quite a lot of words and references that I did not understand but it made me read the book more slowly than I might have which I actually liked. (less)