The book mostly focuses on surgeon, Joseph Lister, a young Quaker with big ideas, as he tries to make surgery safer, and unite medicine and science.
After reading this book, I was happy to have been born when I did, with the advances that we currently have in medicine. I would have hated to have been one of the poor souls who had been operated on without anesthesia of any sort, and who would end up with only a slight chance at survival. During the time focused on in this novel, surgeons were under a clock when they operated. The point was, get in fast, get is fixed fast, and finish as fast as possible.
Lister was a curious young man, who almost didn't become a surgeon. He became overwhelmed and told his father he was feeling far from his faith and wanted to become a Quaker minister. His father, a confident man, was often the one to turn young Lister around. Through his life he continued to depend on his father, and eventually his wife, Agatha, as well. He was a man with a dream to find a way to keep people from dying after a visit to the hospital.
In the end, Lister's ideas were incorporated and used as it was proven that they did keep people from dying.
I did enjoy this book, although there were some parts where the timeline was a little confusing. An example of this is that it was stated that Lister's father died in 1869, and his father-in-law died in 1860, when in fact his father-in-law died in 1870. I would have also liked a little more about Agatha. I wanted to know more about their relationship and how they got along. While it seemed that Agatha was happy to help her husband, she wasn't incorporated enough in they story. I would have liked to know more about how she felt when her husband operated on his patients on her dining room table.
It was also quite frightening how operations took place. People were losing limbs left and right. People often died of sepsis due to infection after any kind of surgery, especially when a limb was removed or a if there was a compound fracture. Once ether was introduced surgery did become a tad easier, as the patients were not fully awake during the operation. However, the issue was often cleanliness and sterilization. Surgeons would go from one operation to another, without changing or cleaning themselves or their instruments. It was no wonder that so many people died when they had surgery.
There were parts of this book that were a little to superfluous, and they could have been edited out, but the last quarter of it was very interesting, when Lister started publishing his work, and when people began trying to discredit him. I'd recommend this to anyone who is interesting in history, and the history of medicine. It took me a while to finish it, only because I was listening to it on audio book, and only listened when I went out for a walk, but otherwise, I think this is likely to be a fast read and I do recommend it.