Tuesday, 11 August 2009
The encircled heart (Josephine Elder)
It was lucky that while I was feeling poorly on Friday, I had a book about a doctor to occupy myself (you must all know by now my penchant for themed reading). This was The encircled heart, another Greyladies republication. I am really liking the Greyladies imprint because the books that they publish are fairly light, and immensely readable, so perfect for holiday or poorly reading.
This book is the story of Marion Blake, a young doctor in General Practice in the 1930s. Josephine Elder was the pseudonym for Dr Olive Potter, and the reason that the book is so interesting and so successful is because Elder/Potter is obviously drawing on her own experiences as a doctor in this period (in fact there is an introduction to the text which includes a transcript of a talk that Potter gave on her medical training to the Women's Institute). Marion lives with her friend Philippa, who works as a pathologist in the nearby hospital, and the early part of the book is devoted to describing their lives together. Then Marion meets Paul, an academic, and they get married. Unusually for the times Marion is determined to keep her job, and this causes considerable conflict within the marriage. Eventually, she is forced to leave it when she has children. The war arrives, and with it Marion has the chance to return to work, and finally begins to find some fulfilment again; I found this very empowering because it demonstrates an early realisation that the woman's place does not have to be in the home (although I'm not sure WHY I find this empowering as I would love to devote my life to running our household and not working!!). The book deals with several other issues along the way - abortion and marital fidelity, so all in all a fascinating insight into life in the 1930s, women doctors, and a good story too.