Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book Review: Doctors by Erich Segal

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you were a doctor? What it takes for a person to tick in the time of distress? What does it feel to cut open a human being’s body and then sew it back as perfectly normal? What it takes to have compassion and a sense of duty at the same time? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should definitely make it a point to read the book “Doctors” by Erich Segal. Even if you have a negative response to each and every question that I asked, then also you should read that book. The reason is simple. It’s a classic!


There are people who look up to doctors as demi-Gods, and there are people who think that doctors are just slime people in white coats and fancy language. This is a book for both that kind of people.This book chronicles the life and times of a particular class of the Harvard Medical School, one of the most prestigious places in the world to learn the profession. This book shackles many myths that people might have about doctors. It’s definitely an emphatic humane document on the workings and makings of a doctor.

Segal, the author of numerous classics like “The Class” and “Love Story” delivers one of his best works of fiction. “Doctors” mainly centers on the life of four people, all doctors. Barney Livingston and Laura Castellano, both grew up together and were best friends. Their friendship saw through many tough times, and the only unfailing feature of this friendship was that, both of them never deserted the other in any time of need or want. Their lifelong platonic friendship gradually turned into love, and made each one realize how much the other means in their life. Barney, a psychiatrist had to see the horrors of his profession first hand and even from Med School knew how fragile a doctor’s life was. Laura on the other hand, a neonatologist had to fight against all odds and make it to the medical profession which was considered to be a ‘man’s game’.

The book also tells the story of Bennett Landsmann, a black boy with Jewish parents who adopted him after his father got killed in the war. Ben became one of the first black persons to pass from Harvard Med School, who had a brilliant knack at surgery. Ben’s story brings about the pathos of the black people at that time in America, and also the added twist of having Jewish parents didn’t seem to help him. We also meet in this book, Seth Lazarus, a mellow man who had such compassion for his fellow human beings, that he couldn’t see anyone in pain. Seth supported euthanasia and even when he was tried for this charge he didn’t let his principles wither.

The book “Doctors” makes us looks at the persons behind the white coats and stethoscopes into the heart that makes them such humane. The book not only tells us about the emotions of doctors, it also vividly gives us a glimpse of how hard their lives are; how hard they have to toil to make it to where they are. The book is a must read for every medical student, or a practitioner of the profession. Doctors is about relationships, about professionalism, about lives. The reader grows old with the characters, worries with them, and laughs with them. It is a must-read for anyone who treasures relationships.

Segal as usual writes in a very charming language, and although the book is pretty long, close to 700 pages, you never get tired. The characters seem so real, that you become a part of the story and you feel as if you are living their world too. This is one of the most enduring features of Segal’s writing. And lest you think that the book is full of medical jargon, then rest assured, it’s a fine read. The one thing that I will always remember from this book is what Barney told Laura: “One complete human being deserves another complete human being. Love is not a part time job.”

Title: Doctors

Author: Erich Segal

Price: Rs. 280

Rating: 8/10

[This review was published here.]