‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’ Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards. The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.
I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.
Are You The F**king Doctor? is a wonderful book, that shines a light on the highs and lows of life, as a family doctor on the Irish Border. Funny, thought provoking and sad on times, this is a book for all reader’s. We all moan about how long it takes to get an appointment to see the GP, without really understanding the intense pressure they are under and I admit I’d never thought about how it really felt to sit on the other side of the desk! They are as Dr Farrell says, the dragons of the medical world, facing all, never knowing what will walk through the doors next. From Joe and his never ending list of conditions, real and imagined, to their own frailties reflected in the insecurities of their patients.
The reason I loved this book so much was his honesty, his sense of humour and his love of literature, which is referenced throughout the book. He writes with such a passion and flair, riding his surgery “like it was a great black Stallion” and then in the next paragraph sums up with a sense of pathos how it feels when Joe walks in. No longer is he heroic, but faced with the day to day slog of practice, of people who just want antibiotics, he is now the “deluded old knight astride a moth eaten Rozinante”. What language, what amazing use of imagery!
Then there is his explanation of the medical sense of humour. Having worked with doctors and nurses myself for 16 years, it perfectly encapsulates how humour thrives in the worst of circumstances. A copying mechanism that is dark and powerful and helps make sense of events that can’t be explained any other way. If we are laughing, then we can’t be scared. I’ve witnessed friends who have just come back from trying to save a patient, while sliding around in copious amounts of vomit, joking about the way the patient track suit bottoms we gave them to wear, make their bums look big. knowing that it’s the laughter that helps them cope. Just like Farrell says which such insight and understanding, tragedy and comedy are never far apart and his book shines a light on this with both tenderness and rye understanding.
Are You The F**king Doctor? opens our eyes to the reality that doctors are human, just as capable of failing as the rest of us, what makes them different, is how brave they are in taking on such levels of responsibility. For many the pressure becomes too much and bravely the writer talks of his journey as a recovering morphine addict. That first chapter is hard to read, its powerful stuff and the brutal honesty makes it all the more poignant and affecting. You come to understand why people like Liam Farrell come to train as GPs and the reasons why they walk away as well. As Adam Kay gave us a window into the world of an NHS hospital doctor, the pain and laughter, so does Dr Farrell for his fellow GPs.
It’s not all sad, because this book is laugh out loud funny as well, take when Mrs Keogh arrives in the surgery with a Tupperware container, not filled with cake for the doctor, but her husbands bodily movements! I cried with laughter at the descriptions of the first days of Colonoscopies in Ireland, oh and rocked in my seat at Joe’s exploding sebaceous cyst. Humour is the backbone of this remarkable memoir and it pervades every page.
We should all read this book, maybe when we walk into the surgery the next time, we will then see the human behind the stethoscope. I for one will be going into work and hugging a GP, they won’t like it, but I will. We can sit, laugh and remember the time she was trying to climb out of the window to get away from a patient with scabies, who knew she had such a morbid fear of this condition or that a chair could be pushed back at such speed. Or at the man who swore blind he had no feeling from the waist downwards, but tapped his foot in rhythm to his calls for a sick note.
This memoir is outstanding and I will be singing it’s praises to all who will listen. Honest, funny and brave, it’s up there at the very top of all the beautifully written books, that seek to shine a light into the world of those, who work to care for others.
You can purchase this book from Amazon.
About the author
Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.
He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.
On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson. He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.
His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.