Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: The Girl in His Shadow

The Girl in His Shadow: A Novel
by Audrey Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely stunning. This is actually two authors who worked together from across an ocean(!) but published under one name. One of the female authors is a Canadian (like me!), the other gal is in the UK.

There is a lot of gory detail for surgery, but it’s all medically described and felt so real (especially the description of the rotting corpse--smell and all!). I appreciated that they didn't downplay the risks of the surgeries being performed for the time (especially when using the ether) but also the huge benefit of patients not enduring the pain directly. They didn't go into a lot of detail on the mental well-being of someone who has a bullet removed from their leg while conscious (for example); but it was certainly implied at times that the surgery might be more than a patient can bear (without the ether). We still loose people to anesthesia at alarming rates in today's medical system; but reading this I'll take that risk every single time over the option of just enduring pain (which can lead to permanent nerve damage and chronic pain).

The continued trials and walls put in place of our female lead are so frustrating. At times I wanted to take the book and whack some dead guy for his stupid theory about women being "too sensitive" or "too soft" to handle blood and trauma. Clearly these surgeons haven't seen who tends to the men brought in from a battlefield. There is absolutely no proof to show that one gender has more resilience to handle blood and gore than the other. Albeit we don't see a lot of female serial killers (although a small part of me likes to think it's because the women are too clever to get caught); I do not believe that is because women are adverse to gore. We have babies for goodness sake! What else is messier than having a baby?! (note: I have never, and will never give birth or carry I child I am going by what other women have told me) At any rate, there are a thousand scenarios that we could come up with to prove why women are not inferior surgeons or doctors. And while it's good to remember how far we've come in just over 100 years; at the same time I challenge people to remember this exact same sentiment stands for race and cultural background. Just because someone's English is a bit broken doesn't mean they aren't the absolute best surgeon or doctor.

Carrying on, I really loved the romance story (which is surprising); it felt like a nice add-on to the core novel. Now this is high praise from me as I tend to hate romance plunked into the middle of novels like this or that draw the attention away from the historical context. I didn't feel in any way like it was forced or took my attention away. The romance is firmly rational and it makes perfect sense given the lifestyle and close quarters of our lead gal and her love interest. Additionally; if you don't leave your home much or socialize you're likely to fall for someone in your immediate vicinity. (note: I do not consider this a spoiler as it is very obvious from the moment we meet said love interest what his likely role will be).

Overall I would say this is an excellent historical read. If you have any interest in women's fight to enter the medical profession, the controversial use of ether, the scientific 'race' to discover first, or just want a good historical read in this time period. I truly don't think many people will be disappointed by this novel. It is easy to recommend out (even if a bit gory at times, that's a simple heads up for any reader) and while many bad things happen in it; is ultimately a feel good read (which may seem odd for me to say but once you read it you'll understand why). As I don't do "beach reads" or contemporary romance (or not very often) this to me is a perfect casual summer or vacation read (for those that usually are immersed in intense historical war, sci-fi/fantasy, or horror novels). For those like me, I think you'll know if you are or not, then consider this a lighter read. Either way, it's a good solid read for almost anyone.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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