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Book Resources & Recommendations > Historical medical fiction

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message 1: by Sarah, Moderator (last edited Nov 29, 2015 10:08AM) (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments After recently reading The Hangman's Daughter and reading the comments for the buddy read of My Name is Mary Sutter, it got me thinking about what other historical fiction is out there which focuses on the medical practices of the time. Things are so different these days and it's hard to believe that doctors thought that the body worked in the way they did and used the weird procedures they did.

So I am looking for fiction recommendations focusing on a medical practitioners (physician/dentist/bloodletter/midwife/herbalist/head doctor) of some kind, back in the day, or perhaps a specific ailment (plague, spanish flu, cholera, mental health issues etc) and how they were tackled by the populace. I would also be interested in hearing about any books set in mental asylums. I guess I'm thinking pre-1900s for all these as there will be more of a contrast.

Thanks in advance.


message 2: by Lanelle (last edited Nov 29, 2015 07:31AM) (new)

Lanelle | 3038 comments Sarah, I know that you really wanted pre-1900's books, but would you consider In the Shadow of Blackbirds?

I read it recently for a Gothic reading challenge and really enjoyed it. I learned a lot about how Americans dealt with the Spanish influence pandemic. The book is set in 1918, and the pandemic had already been going for a few years.


message 3: by Lisa (last edited Nov 29, 2015 07:49AM) (new)

Lisa (lisathebooklover) | 9244 comments This is set after 1900 but I would recommend Regeneration by Pat Barker which is the first in the 'Regeneration' trilogy. It's set during World War One and the plot focuses on shell shocked soldiers who are being treated at Craiglockhart Hospital. The hospital was a real place and several of the characters existed too, such as war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

This next recommendation may not be what you are looking for but Company of Liars by Karen Maitland is excellent. It's set at the time of the Black Death in 1348 and although it's not specifically about medical practices etc, it does highlight superstitions of the time that are linked to the plague and most of the characters are outcasts for one reason or another. It has a supernatural/mystery element to it too.


message 4: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Yes definitely Lanelle. In fact it's already on my wishlist and I think I bumped it up after seeing yours and someone else's thoughts on it. I had forgotten it was about the Spanish flu though so thanks for the reminder.


message 5: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments The shell shock focused one sounds interesting Lisa especially as I treat people with PTSD so it will be good to read about how they approached it back then.


message 6: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments While Company of Liars may not have a medical focus, it does sound interesting. Added to wishlist.


message 7: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments I might as well add a recommendation for others interested in this subject too. I read Fever which was about Thypoid Mary who was the first known symptomless carrier of thypoid. Talks about the disease, thypoid and tb quarantine hospitals and tests/treatments used.


message 8: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1641 comments I have a few suggestions:

A Morbid Taste for Bones, the Brother Cadfael series has quite a bit of the medical practices of the time throughout the series, as Cadfael is the monasteries herbalist.

The Anatomist's Apprentice, featuring Dr. Thomas Silkstone, anatomist and pioneering forensic detective in eighteenth century England.

Mistress of the Art of Death, a series featuring Adelia, a female forensics expert in Cambridge, England.

Remedy For Treason, a series set in 1300s Spain and featuring a blind Jewish doctor as the detective.

Mortal Mischief is in 1900s Vienna, and Psychoanalyst Dr Max Liebermann is a student of Freud's methods. Not medical in a body sense but quite a bit of the early physiological methods.

Medicus has Gaius Petrius Ruso in Britian. He's a divorced and down-on-his-luck Roman army doctor.


message 9: by Sandra (last edited Nov 29, 2015 11:15AM) (new)

Sandra (sanlema) | 9175 comments Oh my... why I entered this thread... my TBR is weeping... anyways, I found this two lists:

Best Historical Medical Fictions:
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...

Doctors, nurses and healers:
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2...

Not sure if sooo many titles is useful. Probably you wanted something more focused, but I don't have many in my Read shelf.
I have around 10 already in my TBR.


message 10: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Thanks Dawn. I had three of those on my list already and like the one Lanelle mentioned, i didn't realise about their medical focus. The others I've added to my tbr.

I'll take a cautious look at the lists Sandra. I think i might need to create a medical shelf if i add any more to my wishlist.


message 11: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1641 comments That first list isn't too bad actually, I've heard good things about The Alienist which is on there and also The Physician.

And A Duty To The Dead is on there, I didn't remember that one. That particular book in the series has quite a bit about asylums.

The Beacon at Alexandria got good reviews from some of my friends and I have A Plague on Both Your Houses on my TBR but didn't realize it was medical.


message 12: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Medical fiction shelf now created :-)


message 13: by Roz (new)

Roz | 3487 comments There's also The Book of Madness and Cures set in the 1500s. I haven't read it and it averages 3 stars but it looks interesting.


message 14: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments The Beacon of Alexandria sounds like it would have been a good choice for this month's theme.


message 15: by Cherie (new)

Cherie (crobins0) | 19585 comments My aching TBR too, Sandra, but I had many of these on my list and added the rest. I am not in any medical profession or field I but have always been interested in reading about things. The one about the 1918 Spanish Flu came up in a magazine story I read relating to the invention of artificial aspirin during that time frame. They did not understand the dosages and it was alluded that doctors may have killed many more people than would have died naturally while trying to control the fevers.


message 16: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments I bet a lot of that went on Cherie early on with medicines and I'm guessing that is why animal testing came about. But now things are swinging towards computer generated tests which is also amazing. I only hope that more of that will be done and less of the animal testing as it makes me sad.

I'm fascinated at reading how things came about. One of the series (while not exactly medical) that I'm really liking starts with The Yard and it's set around the time of Jack the Ripper in London. Bodies are found and early forensic tests are being used and I like seeing the thoughts that went in to the reasons for doing these things, how they worked out they could do that, and the opposition from those around them.


message 17: by Peggy, Moderator (last edited Nov 30, 2015 01:37AM) (new)

Peggy (pebbles84) | 14595 comments Interesting! I also added several to my TBR, but I can't think of any recommendations.

The Outlander series has some medical stuff in it, but it's not the main focus and would mean a lot of reading through other stuff to get to the medical bits.


message 18: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments I saw that Outlander was on the list Sandra mentioned. I've not put it on my medical shelf though as I thought it wouldn't be the focus.


message 19: by Peggy, Moderator (new)

Peggy (pebbles84) | 14595 comments Sarah wrote: "I saw that Outlander was on the list Sandra mentioned. I've not put it on my medical shelf though as I thought it wouldn't be the focus."

You're right. And the medical parts that are in there are a mix of old and new, as Claire time-travelled from the 20th century to the 18th century and she incorporates some of the modern insights into her practice. I really enjoy the medical parts in the book though :)


message 20: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Welcome to the group Aaron. I'm guessing yourself and Peggy were writing posts at the same time and it wasn't her intention to ignore your post. I'm forever crossing posts with others to then go back and see that I've written the same response to a question as someone else.

In this post we're discussing recommendations for historical fiction books which have a medical slant to them. We do have a general chat thread called Watcha Doing where we talk about how our day is going etc. I think we might also have a thread for poems and things. Take some time to have a look around the threads to see what we have and any questions just let us know.


message 21: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments Damn you all scream my groaning shelves!! I'm so bookmarking this thread, and ignoring those incredibly tantalising lists Sandra.

Looks like your and Peggy's posts crossed over, Aaron, not a willful ignore. But I would suggest taking general chat to the "Watchya Doin'?" Thread


message 22: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments heh speaking of crossing over posts.


message 23: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Rusalka wrote: "heh speaking of crossing over posts."

See! It happens all the time ;-)

Didn't you read a book recently Rusalka set during the plague?


message 24: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments Yes! Yes I did. Year of Wonders. Geraldine Brooks is a great writer, Aussie journo, now Pulitzer Prize winner, and she wrote one of the best non-fictions on Islamic women I've ever read. BUT she also writes fiction, and this one was really good and I devoured it.

Plague town in 1500s, in the midlands. Shut off from all other towns in all directions, for fear of contamination, and this is the story of the year they were cut off. Two thirds of the people you meet die, and it's still really interesting!


message 25: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments And by recently, it was the end of the alphabet challenge, so two years ago now :(


message 26: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Ah yes. I knew it was an Australian author but I couldn't remember who it was. Looks like I've already got it on my wishlist.


message 27: by Peggy, Moderator (new)

Peggy (pebbles84) | 14595 comments Crossposting it was! Welcome Aaron :)


message 28: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments Dawn wrote: "Remedy For Treason, a series set in 1300s Spain and featuring a blind Jewish doctor as the detective. "

I was really interested in this until the blurb said: "* Fans of The Name of the Rose will love it"

NOooooo please tell me it's wrong!


message 29: by Roz (new)

Roz | 3487 comments That reminds me. Doomsday Book takes place during the plague years in England.


message 30: by Janice, Moderator (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 47187 comments I'm currently reading Pope Joan. While it's not focused on medical procedures of the past, it does contain some. Joan was a medicus and there is a lot of blood letting and discussion of healing herbs.


message 31: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Are you enjoying Pope Joan, Janice? I really should start it sometime soon.


message 32: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1641 comments Rusalka wrote: "Dawn wrote: "Remedy For Treason, a series set in 1300s Spain and featuring a blind Jewish doctor as the detective. "

I was really interested in this until the blurb said: "* Fans of The Name of the Rose will love it"

NOooooo please tell me it's wrong!..."


It's wrong, they are nothing alike other than being historical mysteries.


message 33: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (caveatlector) | 1641 comments A friend of mine just added The Unquiet Bones to her TBR and it looks like it will fit into your medical list nicely.


message 34: by Cherie (new)

Cherie (crobins0) | 19585 comments Rusalka wrote: "Dawn wrote: "Remedy For Treason, a series set in 1300s Spain and featuring a blind Jewish doctor as the detective. "

I was really interested in this until the blurb said: "* Fans of The Name of th..."


ROFL!! Yes, that is what it says. Makes me stop and think about it too.


message 35: by Janice, Moderator (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 47187 comments Sarah wrote: "Are you enjoying Pope Joan, Janice? I really should start it sometime soon."

I am for the most part. It's in a bit of a draggy spot but I'm sure it will pick up soon.


message 36: by Joan (new)

Joan Aaron(RetroBlast) wrote: "I SAW THE POPE IN CONCERT!"

Aaron I haven't seen the Pope in concert but I did meet the Mayor of Antigonish on a tour bus in New York City last week.


message 37: by jaxnsmom (new)

jaxnsmom | 8271 comments I don't recommend The Book of Madness and Cures for a medical HF book. I liked the book but thought the title was misleading. I kept waiting for the madness and cures to be an important part, but that didn't happen. It was more about Gabriella's search for her father.


message 38: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments jaxnsmom wrote: "I don't recommend The Book of Madness and Cures for a medical HF book. I liked the book but thought the title was misleading. I kept waiting for the madness and cures to be an impor..."

Thanks J'mom. I wonder if that's one of the reasons it has such a low average star rating?!


message 39: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 16709 comments Dawn wrote: "It's wrong, they are nothing alike other than being historical mysteries. "

Oh phew!


message 40: by Joan (new)

Joan March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen I think this book is a great introduction to GOOD microbes - as in wine, yogurt, your intestines. The author even explains why fish from the ocean smell fishy but fresh water fish do not.
Unfortunately it does not have any pictures.


message 41: by Janice, Moderator (last edited Dec 05, 2015 06:46PM) (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 47187 comments While gophering for the 2016 challenge, I came across The Bloodletter's Daughter: A Novel of Old Bohemia The Bloodletter's Daughter A Novel of Old Bohemia by Linda Lafferty .

It also has a big bowl on the cover!


message 42: by Sarah, Moderator (new)

Sarah | 18118 comments Good catch Janice!


message 43: by Peggy, Moderator (new)

Peggy (pebbles84) | 14595 comments Haven't read it, but I came across My Notorious Life which seems to be about a woman apprenticed to a doctor in the 19th century.


message 44: by Cherie (new)

Cherie (crobins0) | 19585 comments I had to come here and say how much I love the medical herb lore and information that Diana Gabladon puts in her Outlander books. I even got a diagnosis out of The Firery Cross the other day. She gave me the name of a condition I have on my left hand. I never knew what it was called.


message 45: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (sanlema) | 9175 comments That's good, Cherie. You never know what you can find in a book when you start reading it. People who don't read doesn't know what they are missing.


message 46: by Cherie (new)

Cherie (crobins0) | 19585 comments Sandra wrote: "That's good, Cherie. You never know what you can find in a book when you start reading it. People who don't read doesn't know what they are missing."

I agree, Sandra! I cannot imagine not reading.


message 47: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Me either!


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