Publisher: Soho Press
Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Genre: Adult Historical
Set in Quebec at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, The Heart Specialist is the epic story of Agnes White, a lonely orphaned girl fascinated by the “wrong” things—microscopes, dissections, and anatomy instead of more ladylike interests—who rises to the status of one of the world’s most celebrated pioneering women doctors. Not only does she break through patriarchal academic barriers; she masters the science of the human heart, becoming a scholar of international fame, all in a place and time inimical to intelligent women.
When Agnes is small, her father, a French-Canadian doctor living in Montreal, is charged with the murder of his handicapped sister. Although he is eventually acquitted, his reputation is ruined, and he flees, abandoning Agnes and her pregnant mother. Less than a year later, her mother dies of consumption, leaving Agnes and her baby sister Laure on their own. Agnes’s sparse memories of her father have an abiding impact on her, and she is determined to find him, as well as to follow in his footsteps as a doctor, even though medical schools in Canada are closed to women at the time. She eventually gets her degree and finds a niche for herself as the curator of the McGill University pathology museum. But even as her professional star rises, her life is solitary and her happiness remains incomplete because of her missing father. One of the only clues in her quest to find him is a strange, misshapen heart that teaches her an invaluable lesson about love. Agnes ultimately must recognize that though she’s a world-reknowned expert on the human heart, she still doesn’t understand the her own.
Inspired by the career of Maude Abbott, one of Canada’s first female physicians, The Heart Specialist is a novel about the mysterious, painful journey into selfhood.
I am so glad it’s over. I wish I could go back in time and take back the request that I put in for this ARC. It’s not that it was horrible, because it wasn’t. I was just bored to tears. Seriously. I fell asleep early the last couple of days because I just wasn’t interested enough. I guess it was the topic. It just wasn’t for me. I thought I would like it, but I didn’t.
I did enjoy the writing, but good writing does not a good book make. And then I also have to complain about the plot. It was very basic. Something happened and then something else happened and nothing came as a surprise ever. There were no twists, nothing exciting, just a general snorefest. I’m sorry, and I hate to write bad reviews, but it’s true. And it wasn’t because it was historical either. I read a lot of historical novels. I appreciate a lot of them. This book just read more like an encyclopedia than a novel. I understand it was loosely based on someone that actually lived. But again, it was almost as if the author was trying to write it to be more boring.
2 stars for the writing, because it was acceptable, even good. A few of the characterizations were also done well. The protagonist Agnes, and her assistant Jakob were well written and had a decent amount of depth. If you are interested in medicine, I recommend you read it. Then you might find it interesting. Otherwise, I’d probably pass. It started out okay, but when I was about halfway through and it still wasn’t getting interesting, I started scanning sections and trying to hurry and finish it up. Once reading becomes a chore, it’s no longer fun. I just wanted to be done.
Links to the book on Amazon are here, in case you do want to try it for yourself. It went on sale yesterday.
The Heart Specialist