Title: Germ Warfare
Author: Dr. Adrian Fine
Germ Warfare by Dr. Adrian Fine is a fictionalized memoir of his early years as a medical student and a doctor in the United Kingdom and Ireland, then in Canada, and his counterpart is Dr. Robert Cohen in the book. Humorous stories of Robert’s interactions with various patients and staff mix with the serious backdrop of the corruption and lies of the staff and administration at a hospital in Canada in the early 1980s and Robert’s drive to expose the truth.
Dr. Fine uses humor well throughout the narrative to balance the darker parts. Because the events in the story are based on the author’s life, his humor is even more striking. The reader can easily visualize the surroundings and hear the banter between Robert and others while he’s at work, thus bringing the reader into the story. When the reader gets the impression of experiencing the tale firsthand, it enhances their ability to relate to the protagonist and other characters and lends to strong storytelling. Robert’s voice, and by extension the author’s, carries both whimsy and authority—not an easy feat to pull off.
On the flip side, Dr. Fine addresses the serious nature of corrupt leadership in the hospital setting and how it can lead to unnecessary patient deaths. Robert’s inability to face a dying patient early on shows his flaws and his humanity. While he’s still quite young in his career at this point, we see Robert mature through the years into a capable and formidable doctor in his own right. His character shows growth and evolution.
Robert serves as the vessel through which much of the story is told, so the reader relies on his point of view, and the author delivers strongly with first-person in this suite. However, the point of view wavers between first and third as we get further into the narrative, sometimes switching within a single sentence. Then, in the latter half of the book, the point of view switches completely to third. The necessity for third-person point of view is evident during certain scenes where Robert is absent and important information is relayed; however, the latter scenes with Robert likely should be in first person for continuity.
Germ Warfare gives an inside look into the workings of a hospital through a doctor’s perspective. As patients, we often only see doctors in a professional capacity and may even look at them as higher than the average person in some ways. This book brings a healthy dose of humanity, humility, and humor to what it’s like to be a doctor. Its candid tone and liberal use of dialogue keep the narrative flowing well throughout.
Dr. Fine’s fictionalized memoir is an eye-opening journey into the life of a doctor. Readers who are looking for a book that challenges them to rethink their notions of the medical field will find Germ Warfare both unsettling and encouraging. Robert Cohen’s story will remain with the reader long after the last page is turned, a reminder that life is too short not to laugh or to be honest.
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