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This book review has to start with a declaration of interests. As a neurologist, I have a respectful, gasping admiration for the work and writing of Henry Marsh. I have lapped up this book and his TV programmes. I have referred patients to him, and they enjoyed seeing him. He will push his own patients to the scanner; he has been filmed dictating letters while riding his bicycle between hospitals, and before medicine did PPE in Oxford. He has driven to Ukraine to help develop neurosurgery, taking with him equipment the National Health Service (NHS) had discarded. He is every clinician's ideal father-in-law. If he needed to operate on me I would sign the form and ask him to do an awake craniotomy so that when I told people all about it I could end by saying, with my best Max Boyce conviction ‘I know; I was there.’
Clinically, he has certainly been there; I doubt there is a neurosurgical awkwardness—conversation, technique, success, failure, over-involvement, compassion fatigue—with which he has not had to contend. He tunes in, effortlessly, to the narrative-base of clinical medicine even though the …
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