‘War Doctor, Surgery on the Front Line’ by David Nott
War Doctor, Surgery on the Front Line was the first book I read during my holiday to Croatia last June. Despite taking multiple books with me, see: Posh Boys, Under the Wig, and This is Going to Hurt, I still HAD to make a purchase at the airport bookstore. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is; there is something about airport bookstores that mean I lose all sense of time, space, and quite how many books I already have stuffed in my suitcase!
As previously mentioned all over the blog, I am a big fan of memoirs. The window they offer into otherwise unreachable careers is both intriguing and addictive. I was slightly concerned that this would be too similar to This is Going to Hurt, however, I was mistaken. In the words of Adam Kay himself “brave, compassionate and inspiring – it left me in floods of tears”. I must concur – and also point out that crying at a swimming pool will generate lots of dodgy looks.
The blurb reads …
“For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. From Sarajevo under seige in 1993, to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out life-saving operations and field surgery in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major London teaching hospital”
I found War Doctor to be an exceptionally emotional book. Intensely human, and harrowing. Nott did not try to soften the tragedy with humour; he was straight with the reader, not afraid of offering gory details. His writing style lends to becoming deeply emotionally involved with the narrative, at points it feels like you’re experiencing the events with him.
As with another book I read in Croatia – Under the Wig – Nott dedicates a portion of his book to the war in the Balkans during the 1990s. Having studied International Human Rights law as part of my undergraduate degree, it was interesting to hear about the conflict from a different professional perspective. Studying a topic through a legal lense can often remove any and all human element. But, there can be no doubt of the deeply human nature of war; and the experiences of those on the frontline.
Overall this book was a much needed reminder of how conflict is permanent. There are always people fleeing for their lives, living in continuous danger, with no access to basic human rights. A stark illustration of how much trouble there is out in the world right now, and what we can do to help.
‘War Doctor’ in Facts:
Author: David Nott
First Published: 2019
Publishing House: Picador
In 2015 David Nott set up the David Nott Foundation with his wife Elly to help disseminate the teaching and learning from his experience on the frontline. More information can be found here.