Five words from the blurb: abortion, taboo, confronts, truth, tribunal
Before reading My Notorious Life I don’t think I’d read a book with the central theme of abortion, so it was slightly strange to discover another book, published on exactly the same day, covering the same theme. Is this a strange coincidence, or have we reached a point in time where authors finally feel comfortable talking about this emotive subject?
Two years ago I listened to a Radio 4 adaptation of Gabriel Weston’s memoir, Direct Red, and was very impressed. Dirty Work is much slower in pace, but gives the same wonderful insights into the mind of a doctor.
The book follows Nancy, a gynaecologist, who finds herself performing abortions. One day a routine termination goes horribly wrong and Nancy must take part in disciplinary proceedings so she and her management can understand what happened.
As I was reading the book I was slightly confused as to its purpose; it was only when I finished the final page that I appreciated how clever it was. The book doesn’t look at arguments for or against abortion, instead it looks at things from an entirely new perspective: that of the abortion provider. It made me feel deep empathy for those who perform abortions as they go from performing life saving gynaecological surgery one minute to termination the next. They often hide their profession from friends and family and face persecution from society. There are no easy answers, but any book that asks such difficult questions is well worth reading.
For a book containing such a disturbing theme the writing was surprisingly quiet. The only section containing a graphic description of abortion was right at the end. This passage was written in italics so could easily be avoided by the squeamish or those who don’t want disturbing images in their head, but I felt this section was extremely important and I’m glad I read it.
Overall, this is an important, thought provoking book. It asks many difficult questions and I recommend it to anyone who’d like an insight into the mind of a gynaecological surgeon.