Review: The Butchering Art

Yes, yes, another book review. I’ve been looking forward to The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris since hearing about it a few months ago and it’s even better than I expected.

The true story of a Victorian era surgeon experimenting with different hygiene methods in the early battle against germs could easily be the most boring book in the world. But this book was riveting. Fitzharris wrote it like a fictional story, taking some poetic license with some scenes but it was exactly the right way of telling this story.

Except for the feuds between himself and other established surgeons, many of whom refused to even try his unfamiliar techniques, the story of Joseph Lister’s personal life wasn’t terribly interesting. It’s all about the science and his career as both an active surgeon and medical professor. He even was called upon to operate on Queen Victoria—this gives you a sense of how important a figure he was in the British medical community.

Fitzharris seamlessly inserts related history on other top surgeons of the top, common medical practices, the horrors of early Victorian surgery and more. The Butchering Art is an astounding debut book and I can’t wait to see what topic she covers next.

This is an absolute must-read for anybody interested in medical history, except for the very squeamish. Yucky details don’t usually make me uncomfortable, but a few lines in this book managed to make me nearly gag. Good job, Fitzharris.

They even made a fancy-ass trailer for this book! And it fits it perfectly.


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jillianne hamilton headshotJillianne Hamilton is an author, history enthusiast, book lover and graphic designer. Her debut novel, Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, was shortlisted for the 2016 Prince Edward Island Book Award. She is currently working on her first non-fiction book. She lives in Charlottetown on Canada's beautiful east coast.
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