Elizabeth's Reviews > Doc

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
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's review
Oct 31, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, literary-fiction
Read in October, 2011

Wonderful book that tells the story of how the lives Doc Holliday and the Earp Brothers became intertwined several years before the shoot out at the O.K. Corral. It's a rich multi-layered book that relies on the theme of gambling/card playing to structure the novel. One of those books that I found hard to put down, though at times I was not clear on where the author was trying to take the story. The gambling motif parallels the theme of luck and chance and small choices affect our lives. (p. 189 "This much is sure. If Kate hadn't gone back to Dock Holliday on the afternoon of June 10, 1878, you never would have heard of him."

Things I liked:
The opening sentence "He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle."

The research that went into how tuberculosis impacts the body. I've read many books where one or more characters was impacted by tuberculosis, but this is the first one where I've truly understand how it impacted them.

The character of Doc. The book starts off with a description of him that's not particularly flattering or likeable - heavy drinker, gambler, etc. But as the novel progresses, so does he. The flaws remain, but his intelligence, persistence and depth make him fascinating.

The way the characters and their flaws/virtues transcend their era "Like most entrepeneurs, Bob Wright was hostile to federal power and interference, but he saw no harm at all in the postware scramble for government contracts."

The insight into southerners "In the North, he discovered, courtesy was considered a barameter of genuine esteem; for any decently brought-up Southerner, good manners were simply habitual."

Things I wasn't crazy about:
The head hopping point of view. The author narrates from many different character's points of view, which allows her to provide depth to the number who shape the story. But at times it became distracting and hard to follow.

A few other quotes I liked
P. 33 "He had begun to live down to his opinion of himself."
p. 71 "When the bet is place," he said "a moment is carved away from the past and the future. In that enchanted moment, anything is possible. A man's debts adn regrets and limitations disappear. He is buyin' the chance to imagine-forone moment at a time-that the next card I deal will make him rich."
p. 75 "Or, in more practical terms, one redhead to a whorehouse."
p.123 "Above all, he belived in practice, which increased predictability and reduced the element of chance in any situation."
p. 132 "The smart man doesn't just wait for the future," Bob often told his children."The smart man shapes it."
p. 215 "In China, family was everything. In America, most people were all by themselves and liked it that way."

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Alissa (new)

Alissa Have you read any of her other books? The Sparrow is one of my favorite books--similar themes, but also the head-hopping that can get in the way.

Elizabeth I read Thread of Grace a while back. I remember liking it, but don't remember much about it.

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