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Book review
Dirty Work
  1. Bridget K MacDonald
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bridget K MacDonald, Croydon University Hospital, London Road, Croydon CR7 7YE, UK; bridget.macdonald{at}

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Gabriel Weston. Published by Jonathan Cape, 2013, hardback, 192 pages. ISBN 978-0224091282, £14.99.

The surface narrative of this story is the week-by-week account of a local General Medical Council process taking a month to examine a junior doctor's fitness to practise after a life-threatening surgical complication reported to them by the anaesthetist.

Woven into this is the story of the protagonist's somewhat traumatised childhood and how that led to her life choices. It raises questions about motivation in medicine, specialty choice, coping styles and senior support. It covers a number of topics that are rarely dealt with in novels: surgical ethics, hospital politics and professional self-regulation in medicine.

Weston has a flair for describing tangible sensory moments conjuring scenes to life. This was notable in her first book Direct Red and remains her style.1 Setting the book around four meetings works well giving a neat feeling of a stage set which contains the plot allowing the mental meanderings to stray—but not too far.

Looking at reviews elsewhere makes me focus on Weston's choice of protagonist. Readers do not like Nancy. She is a young woman who is not charming and engaging, who is ambitious and ‘unfeminine’. …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.