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Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Maladies

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  284 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Stephen McGann is Doctor Turner in the BBC hit-drama series Call the Midwife. His family survived famine-ravaged Ireland in the 1850s. His ancestors settled in poverty-rife Victorian Liverpool, working to survive and thrive. Some of them became soldiers serving on the Western Front. One would be the last man to step off the SS Titanic as it sank beneath the icy waves. He would testify at ...more
Published July 27th 2017 by Simon Schuster Audio UK
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-ebooks
This was a fascinating book and a unique approach to writing a family history.

What impressed me most was the unusual insights he had into family history generally and his in particular. I highlighted many of his quotes for this reason. I suppose as researchers we often look at the influences of external factors on our families but somehow this was a step beyond the usual.

There were times as the book progressed that I felt there was just too much
info in the malady itself but it would especiall
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Maladies, to give it its full title, is not your average celebrity autobiography. Stephen McGann will be well known to many for his acting roles over the years and most recently as Dr Turner in Call the Midwife. The book isn't really an autobiography but more a combination of different subjects: part history, part autobiography, part medical references. Stephen McGann has written about his McGann ancestors from the time when they left Ireland duri ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. My husband bought it me for Christmas as he thought it tied all of my interests together.

Although I wasn't taken with the book immediately, it became clear that there was much to relate to: my own ancestors would have lived a few streets away from McGann's; my Irish Great Grandfather was a marine fireman; and I am also married to a Liverpool television screenwriter, so I began to really relish the personal stories and struggles McGann had recorded.

The boo
Polly Allen
I thought this book would be a gentle read, a bit like watching an episode of Call the Midwife (the TV series you'll know Stephen McGann from - he plays Doctor Turner). I was expecting something that used medicine to lightly introduce different anecdotes from McGann's family history. I wasn't prepared for the emotional engagement of Flesh and Blood - this book is truly gripping and beautifully written. McGann has a way with words, and I really wasn't aware how good a writer he is. He often repea ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books
At a medical appointment last week, I was asked what was the cause of death for each of my grandparents. I had just finished McGann's book and became aware that for each of us, such information tells about a particular era, and sometimes class or work, and is in itself a form of history.
My two grandfathers died in old age- one of a hemorrhaged stomach ulcer and one of cancer. But I never knew either of my grandmothers: one died when my mother was young, of TB, the health scourge of that pe
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ironically, that which sometimes weakens this work, at other times makes it stronger! A very original take on doing family history, and McGann’s thoughtful lyricism immediately confirms his Irish roots - sometimes in a longwinded fashion, but his passion for the subjects is deep. Instead of trying to provide a chronological retelling of his family story, McGann uses 7 medical/health issues that have dominated human life, especially that of his own genealogy, to provide entries into an understand ...more
Jane Scott
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and unusual way of writing a family history. Each chapter begins with a detailed description of a particular malady and goes on to explain it's effect on a family member. Beginning with hunger, as his ancestors are forced to leave the west of Ireland during the famine, the family history takes us to the slums of Liverpool, the Titanic, through two world wars up to the present day. Really fascinating read.
Julia Wilson
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was fascinating and moving. The medical, historical and personal information in each chapter worked well, giving the reader insight and understanding. I found it particularly moving as I grew up in Liverpool at the same time as the author and his brothers and sister and so much of the attitudes of his family members and their experiences resonated with my own memories of the time. I finished the final chapter while cooking as I just couldn't put it down!
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audibook
I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by the author.

This book is a fascinating look at family history via the stories of health and disease. I enjoyed Stephen Mcgann’s careful research into his family from the hunger of the Irish Potato famine to his wife’s severe illness with sepsis. The book includes tales from both world wars, the titanic and the Hillsborough disaster as well as details of every day family life in working class Liverpool. The language could be a bit flowery at
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book: I read the last chapter first as I am still gutted that Barbara on CALL THE MIDWIFE died of Heidi's malady necrosis.

Most actors write fluff: this is substance and totally enjoyable!
Stephen Robert Collins
This not a ordinary auto biog but medical & historical trip through McGann past but also what happened in this period from potato blight in Ireland & how it existed to why Uncle Billy hated Japanese .
This not boring bio of bosts but true filth history
Debra Biggs
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical, biography
Found this in my local library. Would not have thought to buy it but couldn't put it down. Part autobiography, part social history, part medical history and part showbiz.
Really glad I found it. Really well researched and written.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book covers the history of the McGann family told through the illnesses and afflictions of some members of the family tree, a very novel approach. I listened on Audible which enhanced the experience as Stephen's voice is so eloquent and expressive. The stories themselves are very poignant and on occasion brought me to tears, as the emotion in Stephen's voice was obvious.
A great book, especially for anyone interested in family history.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
A fascinating story of an Irish family and their history from the mid-nineteenth century on, using health conditions that affected them to provide a skeleton on which to hang the details of their lives, this is written by the genealogist of the family (every family has one!), actor Stephen McGann.
Stephen is the youngest of four surviving brothers, all of whom have become actors. While this is interesting, it is not the only focus of the story. Nor, to be honest, are the health conditions, thoug
Dr Joy
Unabridged audio version narrated by Stephen McGann himself.

Having a postgraduate degree in medical humanities, and playing a doctor in Call the Midwife, McGann is uniquely placed to write a cross between an autobiography and a family history. It's an ingenious concept and beautifully written. Stephen has an amazing voice, and narrating his own story, with his storytelling skills honed by his prestigious acting career, makes it one of the most special audio books I have experienced.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting take on family history, telling not necessarily the whole tale but focusing instead on specific maladies and the family members they affected.

For the most part I enjoyed it. Each section starts with a brief description of the medicine before going on to describe how these affected the McGann family. Some sections were more engaging than others but there is no doubt the McGanns were an interesting bunch - Irish immigrants, Titanic survivors, PoWs through to the
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. The premise is intriguing, and parts of it are very well written, but the medical introductions to each chapter read like undergraduate essays copied and pasted from Wikipedia articles. They jump all over the place and I wondered if he was trying to stretch the word count to get the book up to a publishable length. Some sections are patronising to the reader, and as others have said, the floweriness of the language is a bit cringe making. Forcing a structure on ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and original book. Flesh and Blood is a family history / autobiography but with the focus on the maladies that afflicted the family. Each chapter starts with a 'science bit' then goes on to describe the life of a family member and how this malady affected them. It continues chronologically and has a useful family tree on the very back cover; what a brilliant idea. I think there's an error in it though as Stephen's wife's brother David is shown as living while his death is described ...more
Alice Mc
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This book was recommended at the start of my public health studies in Liverpool! It's been on my shelf for a while, and I'm glad I got round to it. It provides an interesting account of medical conditions from the 19th century, as well as some of Liverpool's less glamorous history.

McGann narrates the story of his Irish-Liverpudlian ancestors using health as the main "antagonist". Each chapter is based on a broad medical problem, or malady, such as pestilence, trauma and necrosis. As someone who
Sian Powell
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I was drawn to this book because I have an interest in family history and I enjoyed this aspect of the book. Stephen McGann’s research into his family history revealed how varied family history can be. From Irish emigrants fleeing the Irish potato famine to a relation who survived the Titanic, the stories were interesting and well told. The uncle (through marriage) who survived a Japanese POW camp was a tougher story to listen to but shows how ordinary people have gone through extraordinarily th ...more
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book for anyone interested in an anecdotal history of life in the last 150 years seen through disease. Watch the development of one family proceed before your eyes, from the famine and pestilence that suffused the family’s early years to the improvements in medicine and treatment that come from progress and socialized medicine. Stephen Mcgann is an actor on Call The Midwife and a science writer in his own right. His rendering of more recent maladies affecting close family members as wel ...more
Karen Keane
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I felt this book was ok but it was very slow to start with and not at all what I was expecting. The book was in 7 sections, the first part of each section involved a lot if medical terminology which , in my view, was unnecessary. The next part of each section was a history of the time the author was talking about,which I also thought was too long and drawn out. The last part of each section was the history of the McGann family from 1860 to the present time and I found this part interesting. I fe ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A brilliantly well written book with an unusual approach to genealogy. He has only covered five generations although this is necessary to examine the illnesses and complexities in sufficient detail. A fantastic insight into the flesh on the bones of family history in very well researched detail. Each chapter is set in context and covers some very sensitive and touching issues. The only negative point I have is that in some places there was a touch too much sentimentality. I enjoyed reading about ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this really well written book, the actor Stephen McGann provides a fascinating snapshot of certain periods in Irish and English history through his family tree. The illnesses his ancestors died of reveal so much about their lives and the time they lived. He's taken on an eye-opening journey which includes such history changing events as the Titanic and Gallipoli, discovering unexpected things about his family members along the way.
Alison Nickells
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a different way to write a family history. Enthralling depiction of working class Liverpool. The bravery of telling of the near death experience of the author's wife and the honest expression of his feelings.
Ness Williams
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Most unique approach to writing a family history I’ve come across. If Liverpool history is your thing (as it is mine as a Scouser!), as well was biology and and interest in the McGann Brothers, I would definitely recommend this read!
Susan Mcguire
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Three quarters the way through I find McGann’s writing to be superb and what a family history he tells. Contains one of the most moving and compassionate descriptions of the Hilsborough disaster I’ve ever seen. I’m often moved to tears by this marvellous book.
Ruth Johnstone
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Janice Will
A fascinating read covering the generaitons of Stephen McGann's family, through dire circumstances and starvation right up to the incredible success of the McGann brothers, would highly recommend this book.
Karin Jenkins
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once you get used to the nonlinear story telling it's an interesting mix of family, medical and social history and a testament to the power of the welfare state and free education to allow people to escape the confines of their background.
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever and sometimes moving account of the history of a family.
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Stephen McGann is an English actor best known for his work on Call the Midwife. His three elder brothers -Joe, Paul, and Mark- are also actors. Stephen is married to screenwriter Heidi Thomas.

McGann is also a public speaker and communicator of science, having graduated from Imperial College London with a masters degree in Science Communication.

Internet Movie Database page: