Country Style - - BOOKS - ANNABEL LAW­SON

AD­MIS­SIONS Henry Marsh, Wei­den­feld and Ni­col­son, $27.99

From hos­pi­tal porter to five-star brain sur­geon is a spec­tac­u­lar ca­reer tra­jec­tory but it didn’t end with Mr Marsh’s re­tire­ment (un­like doc­tors, sur­geons are ad­dressed as ‘Mr’). When van­dals trashed the Ox­ford cot­tage Marsh had re­fur­bished with his own hands, his tact­less friend pointed out that mul­lioned ogive win­dows were not what the cot­tage needed any­way. Deeply dis­cour­aged, Marsh took his skills to ru­ral Nepal, where threats to burn down the hos­pi­tal fol­lowed his hon­est but doom­ful di­ag­no­sis of a lo­cal dig­ni­tary. Help­ing a friend out in the Ukraine he en­coun­tered van­ity, ar­ro­gance and un­apolo­getic in­com­pe­tence. He was ex­pected to de­ceive a care­lessly blinded pa­tient with the prom­ise that she would re­cover her sight in due course. In Amer­ica he was asked to demon­strate new tech­niques on anaes­thetised pigs and freeze-dried hu­man heads. How­ever, the rea­son you should read this mem­oir is not for the feats or the many funny sto­ries. Marsh’s hon­esty is un­prece­dented. He tells about his fail­ures sur­gi­cally, sex­u­ally and in his bat­tles with ‘the sys­tem’. You’ll think twice about let­ting just any scalpel near your brain af­ter read­ing this and you’ll also, I guar­an­tee, feel bet­ter about your own fail­ures.

NEED YOU DEAD Peter James, Macmil­lan, $29.99

Hard to spot why James is so com­pul­sively read­able, he’s far too ex­pert to let us see how it’s done. This is the 13th in the De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Roy Grace se­ries. His baili­wick is Brighton, Sus­sex, and in be­tween pur­su­ing five pos­si­ble killers he must col­lect a son from Ber­lin whom he has never met. This 10-year-old gave me the hee­bie-jee­bies. No doubt the next Grace thriller will re­veal more about the young­ster.

THE PARTY Robyn Harding, Simon and Schus­ter, $29.99

A novel which fol­lows a ‘fashionable’ theme or plot line some­times turns out to be bet­ter than the book that set the ball rolling. The cur­rent trend is: teenage girls from good homes and with noth­ing to com­plain about who men­ace help­less oth­ers. Harding’s out­stand­ing sto­ry­telling pulls you in. Fic­tion helps us to think about con­se­quences and al­ter­na­tives.

THE OP­ER­A­TOR Robert O’neill, Simon and Schus­ter, $45

I watched O’neill speak­ing with the doyen of Amer­i­can in­ter­view­ers, Char­lie Rose, and got the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that, for the US Navy SEAL who shot Bin Laden, non-seals weren’t quite real. His mem­oir re­veals why this is so. Men­tally, phys­i­cally and in spirit th­ese men and women are as much like you and me as a Lam­borgh­ini is to a wheel­bar­row. There is, of course, a price to be paid when mere flesh and blood rises to such heights. Would O’neill want his chil­dren to fol­low in his foot­steps? Prob­a­bly not. The pub­lish­ers de­cided to re­pro­duce the cen­sor’s black­ing out of sen­si­tive ma­te­rial and even O’neill’s wife is re­ferred to un­der a pseu­do­nym.

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