Histories by Sam Guglani River Run November 2nd 2017
Never out of the headlines, the NHS provides writers and journalists in particular with endless stories. More often they portray the inadequacies of the service with the occasional good news thrown in.
Guglani’s Histories, using short interlinked stories, provides us with an insight of the NHS. Over the course of a week he uncovers the life of a hospital and its inhabitants, from the cleaner to the patient, junior doctor and consultant.
There is the consultant who wonders if he really does care about his patients or are they just another person on ever growing production line, never able to give them the time they deserve or even want.
In another story a hairdresser watches helplessly as a fellow patient fights for their life and there is the cleaner who locks the doctors mess door in order to feed a homeless man.
What I loved about these stories and Guglani’s writing is the sparseness of the narrative. No word appeared to be wasted, yet they had an intensity to them, beautifully capturing the emotions of the characters and the drama of a busy hospital.
Guglani is not necessarily complementary about his fellow medical professions and their blown up sense of self importance, but it only serves to highlight the dilemma’s they often confront. We have to realise that they too are human and suffer medical emergencies and still have the same fears as the patients they tend to. A good example is the nurse who finds a lump on her throat yet is reluctant to seek help, fearful of what it might mean, perhaps knowing all too well what it may mean.
Through the eyes of the porter and the cleaner we get a differing perspective of the hospital and its inhabitants. The ingratitude of the doctors leaving a mess in the staff room, or the way in which patients and junior doctors are spoken too. You can sense that they wish they could step in and say something, when their role is mainly to remain invisible, to prop up the hospital, to make it work the way it should, to allow others to do their job.
The interlinking of the stories is seemless, and as you read you slowly begin to realise how they all fit together, how each character, each profession depends on the other. If one aspect was missing how would this huge machine we call a hospital actually work?
The book itself may not be very long, but it has an impact, it makes you think, it makes you look at the the medical profession and hospitals with a slightly different perspective. There are two sides to a story, there are two sides to the NHS and maybe this is something we forget and should think about just a little bit more in the future.
Sam Gugalni’s stories are thought provoking and wonderful and I cannot wait to read what he writes next.
Thank you to Bookbridgr and River Run for the opportunity to read and revie
About the author
Sam Guglani is Clinical Consultant Oncologist and a writer based in Cheltenham. He is the Director and creator of Medicine Unboxed. Founded in 2009 its aim is to engage medical professionals and the public in conversations about health via the arts.
He has completed a Masters in creative writing at Oxford, has written poetry and is also a writer for the Lancett.
Histories is his first novel.