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The Physician

(Cole Family Trilogy #1)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  40,334 ratings  ·  2,158 reviews
In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sick—and discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healing—a gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of ...more
Paperback, 714 pages
Published July 1st 2001 by Little, Brown Book Group (first published August 7th 1986)
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AmyG I read this as a teenager and loved it. Now mid 40s and a doctor.
Beth Snider
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  40,334 ratings  ·  2,158 reviews

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Jeanette (Again)
This is one of the most satisfying novels I've read in a long time. One of my rare six-star selections. There's a consistency of quality from cover to cover, owing to the perfect marriage of fine writing and graceful editing.

Rob J. Cole is a man who feels called to be a healer. He stays true to that calling, even when surrounded by other physicians who are motivated by greed and glory. He risks and sacrifices all for the chance to study in Persia with Ibn Sina, the greatest physician of the 11t
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5* It took several chapters for the captivating and superb story to emerge within these 768 pages. Although the beginning of the book had some interesting events, it tended to drag on with the same theme. Approximately half way into the book it came alive and so begins the arduous adventure of the physician barber Rob J. Cole. Set in the 11th century, Cole is left an orphan at 9 years of age, while his siblings are taken in by other families from British villages not far from his own home. Wit ...more
I'll never come to grips with the decision of the writer, Noah Gordon, to extend the chapters, to outstay his welcome. I freely admit to skipping a couple of chapters. That was a thing I didn't want to do, but the relevant chapters were too abysmal.

I'll never read another book by said author. I ought to be thankful that someone can infuse some life, urgency, pathos, and interest in such a big book, but I think the decision to end the book the way it did was treacherous. I happen to think that th
Em Lost In Books

Long but beautifully written. It was time well spent.
Nov 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lauren
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Noah Gordon is my new favorite author. I read The Physician after I read The Last Jew. Both were phenomenal.

The Physician is long, but I read through it quickly. I could hardly put it down! The novel is set in the middle of the eleventh century. Gordon transports readers to another time, setting an ambience that feels authentic to the time period. The novel covers a wide span of geography, beginning in London, taking the reader throughout England and ultimately across Europe through Constantino
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction and sagas, such as "Pillars of the Earth"
This is simply beautiful historical fiction and I was hooked right from the get-go. The plot was exciting throughout. The protagonist was one that I rooted for – something that I seem to need in books and movies. I have to root for somebody!

It’s the story of an English orphan and the trials and difficulties that he had to endure to become a physician in 11th century. I hardly knew anything about the book before reading it and was pleasantly surprised to read all that about the early Persian Emp
Dov Glazer
I’m a modern military history buff, and until I read this book I hadn’t had the slightest intrest in medieval social portraits. Well, Noah Gordon opened my eyes. I travelled through medieval Europe with Rob J. Cole (as I would later do with his descendant Shaman in America) all the way to Persia. How people dressed, ate, how they lived, the relationship with the Jewish community. The remarkable writing style ensured that the length of the book merely made it more appealing. The longer I spent re ...more
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love historical fiction. I love to learn about religion in historical fiction. I loved this book!
This book takes place during the 11th century in Europe. It is about a Christian man who disguises himself as a Jew in order to go to a Muslim school of Medicine in the Middle East. It was so interesting to learn how these three major religions interacted with each other during that time in history.

There is one problem with the book though: there is a lot of sexually explicit content. Since this bo
Deborah Pickstone
I generously give 3.5 stars despite the often farcical historical howlers this tale is flooded by because the storytelling is very good. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK and expect to be informed about the era allegedly covered.

I had read it many years ago, around age 10 I think and it was this book that generated my lifelong interest in the history of medecine. To be fair to the author I believe the parts covering Judaism and Arabic medicine of the period are broadly accurate but probably no more than tha
Stjepan Cobets
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My rating 4.7

The historical novel “The Physician (Cole Family Trilogy # 1) by Noah Gordon is a well-written novel set in the 11th century that draws you to read it to the very end. The writer with his distinctive writing leads us with ease to the world of the Dark Ages where people are dying from diseases that are curable today. Doctors were quite ignorant at the time because knowledge of medicine was at a very low level. All faith that time did not allow the study of human anatomy and whoever w
Auntie Terror
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
When I read it, over ten years ago, I was quite taken with it. Though not taken enough to persue the series further. I also remember ranting about the movie which I've seen a shorter while ago for being lacking in many departments, putting too much emphasis on a love story that didn't exist in the book in that way, and being a lot more "eurocentrist" in who is the hero than the book was. ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-books
I found this book when I looked for something similar to Follets "Pillars of the Earth" and I'm really glad I read it. Both the medieval setting in Britain and the fact that you accompany the protagonist for a long period of his life are aspects this book has in common with "Pillars of the Erath". But as the story goes on it also teaches the reader a lot about the islamic and jewish religion at that time, as well as about the medical practices in the medieval era, which is really interresting. A ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
The Physician can easily be ranked as one of the most racist, prejudicial, erroneous, and contradictory novels, yet to be written on the East (the Others).

Islam and Persia are grotesquely sexualized. Domes on the mosques are described as body parts. Inappropriate sexuality is described as acceptable, desirable, “very sensible,” to the Persians, when the king recalls a childhood memory with a tone, frighteningly close to fondness (380). One would question the author’s motives in making the King
Tom Gonzalez
Apr 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like historical fictions and adventures
Noah Gorgon's ability to transport you back into the dark ages is a result of talent and insightful research.
This is a story of a young man born in London during the reign of King Knute and his transformation throughout his life to become Hakim, the Persian word for Physician. For a Christian, to become a physician was deemed sacrilegious by the all powerful church, and the Islamic world would kill infidels on sight. The protagonist, Rob J Cole, had to become something altogether different than
Miquel Reina
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Physician is the first book of the excellent trilogy (Cole Family) of Noah Gordon I read. A book that I highly recommended if you like such novels "The Pillars of the Earth" in which generations of different eras are mixed, the history of medicine and exciting travel through exotic places.

Spanish version:
El Médico es el primer libro de la excelente trilogía del escritor Noah Gordon. Un libro muy recomendable si te gustan las novelas tipo "Los Pilares de la Tierra" en el que se mezclan gener
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: april-2013
I had such great hope for this novel and although it started out well, it continued into a quagmire of long and drawn out story telling. While the premise was fascinating, the author just dragged the story out and included many banal details which slowed down the reader and made one feel like they were crossing the desert to a finish line that kept on getting further and further away.

I never really fully accepted nor found Rob, the main character, very appealing. Granted his life was hard and o
DNF page 70 of 618.

I was sick of juggling balls.

Where are the guts? The blood? The everything?

I loved the movie, though.

But they have nothing to do with each other.
Rick Slane
Historical-fiction adventure travelogue explores 11th century relationship of three major religions. It's a page turner. ...more
4.5 stars
Thoroughly enjoyed listening to this magnum opus ...
Can't vouch for or discredit the historical and medical accuracy, but took everything for its face value and immersed into the adventure of a young boy from slums of 11th century England who loses his parents and siblings to death and adoption and had to join in as an apprentice to a barber surgeon who initiated him into the basics of medicine ... He goes on to achieve his quest to become a physician facing many hardships with non ch
Kavitha Sivakumar
The story revolves around Rob Cole during 11th century. He became an orphan at very young age while learning his gift to recognize the near death when he held his mother's hand and the his father's hand. His siblings were adopted by many people and he became apprenticed to barber-surgeon. He developed yearning to be a physician. From a Jew physician, he learned that he need to go to Persia to learn from Avicenna, a celebrated physician. However, since he was a Christian, he wouldn't be allowed a ...more
Jeane Rhodes
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've completed the entire trilogy and highly recommend it. The Physician was the lead-in to a multi-generational story that is well researched and beautifully written. I'm ready to read all three again. ...more
Lyn Elliott
Prompted by Ilse, my GR friend and writer of wonderful reviews, I thought I should take a few minutes to say that I enjoyed reading The Physician and am not at all surprised that she found many copies in accommodations in Nepal and India during her travels 25 years ago.
It has all the ingredients for a best seller - an attractive hero, a love story, trails and tribulations, a long journey across unfamiliar lands and cultures and a challenging quest achieved.
For four days it took precedence over m
Review of the audiobook narrated by Richard Higgins.

The Physician does what all great historical fiction accomplishes, which is bring you wholly to the place and time of the story. Not only that, but the cultural journey that Noah Gordon embarks on is the most fascinating of any book that I've read before. The way that Gordon explores each culture through the lens of a 11th century traveler - especially the Jewish and Muslim cultures, which I wasn't familiar with - kept me completely captivated
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gordon‘s „Physician“ is perhaps the most famous roadmovie of Historic Fiction. We follow Rob Cole from England to India and back, from being a Christian to being a Jew and back, and ironically, he comes back as a physician trained by Arvicenna and is still at the outskirts of society.

It has friendship, love, and war, but most of all it’s an intriguing picture of societies of that time. We get an insight into Christian, Jewish, and Muslim culture, and also a basic course in juggling.

Other than
In Persia in the 11th Century, a surgeon's apprentice disguises himself as a Jew to study at a school that does not admit Christians. ...more
A relatively interesting travelogue and discussion of medical knowledge in the 11th century. Rob Cole, the hero travels from England to Persia to gain better training than he could get in England. His dangerous travels through Europe to Persia are described in rich detail. Along the way he meets a sheep farmer and daughter. He considers marrying her and decides not to. (He will meet up with her later and marry her.) He cannot be admitted to the Persian schools as a Christian so he manages to dis ...more
Eileen Iciek
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
From my participation in various Goodreads groups, I realized that many readers, like myself, enjoy historical fiction because they learn about different times and places from the novels. If that is the case, do not read this book!!

From what I know of English and Byzantine history, this book contained so many anachronisms as to make it virtually worthless from the perspective of learning any history. Maybe the information on medieval Judaism and Persian medicine was correct, but I doubt it. Amon
ETA In honour of the upcoming movie, have a link to its first teaser trailer: right here. So... if you're still pondering to read this, why not now/soon and watch the movie later this year ;)/ETA

When I read this book for the first time years ago, I LOVED it all in caps. Wait, did I say years? Make that decades... yes, I think I read this for the first time about 20 years ago. Wow. Wow. I need to let that sink in for a moment. 20 years. Wow.

Anyhow. What I remembered about this book, apart from s
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, middle-ages
More 3.5/5, This was a very good story of an orphan, Rob Cole, in 11th century England. He apprentices with a barber-surgeon, Barber, travelling all over England. He feels there is more to doctoring than what Barber can teach him and heeds the call to be a physician after he KNOWS by just holding a sick person's hands whether they'll die soon or not. He wants to study with Avicenna, the famous medieval Persian physician; this obsession is so overwhelming, he makes the long journey to Persia--thr ...more
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Noah Gordon is an American novelist. Some of the topics covered within his novels include medical history and medical ethics. More recently he has begun to focus more on themes relating to the Inquisition, and Jewish cultural history. His novel Shaman won the first James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1993.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads databas

Other books in the series

Cole Family Trilogy (3 books)
  • Shaman (Cole Family Trilogy, #2)
  • Matters of Choice (Cole Family Trilogy, #3)

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14 likes · 3 comments
“I think of the separation between life and Paradise as a river,” Mirdin said. “If there are many bridges that cross the river, should it be of great concern to God which bridge the traveler chooses?” 22 likes
“And though you study medicine for a score of lifetimes, there will come to you people whose illnesses are mysteries, for the anguish of which you speak is part and parcel of the profession of healing and must be lived with.” 16 likes
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