Review by Shrabastee -- McDowell by William H. Coles

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Shrabastee
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Review by Shrabastee -- McDowell by William H. Coles

Post by Shrabastee » 06 Dec 2018, 05:35

[Following is a volunteer review of "McDowell" by William H. Coles.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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McDowell, a character-driven story by William H. Coles primarily focuses on the life of Hiram McDowell. His life is full of achievements. He is an acclaimed surgeon of the International College of Surgeons, the chief founder of a modern hospital in Nepal, and a proficient mountaineer. The means behind this remarkable success is not completely straightforward, though. However, one crisis after another gradually drives him to a point from which there is no turning back. How can Hiram survive the defamation and find his way back to normalcy?

Hiram is typically portrayed as a conceited, ruthless man without scruples. Not only that, he is completely oblivious to his shortcomings. Unable to grasp the idea that he might be guilty or responsible for what happens to him, he repeatedly tries to justify himself. Although this irked me initially, I came to realize that we all tend to victimize ourselves and blame others occasionally. Hiram’s flaws thus serve as an eye-opener for all of us.

What I liked the best about the book was the gradual evolution of the characters. It was fascinating to see how the characters’ lives were altered through their contact with other people. It is not only Hiram who changed direction, but he also made lasting impacts on the lives of those he met. Thus, McDowell becomes a story of atonement for many of the characters.

Coles presents us with a profound question in his book. What is the purpose of our life? Can success be described in terms of fame and monetary gain? Is there some ultimate goal we all are trying to achieve? Along with Hiram, Coles makes the readers contemplate the answer.

Coles introduced a few thought-provoking issues in his book. Foremost among them was Hiram’s opinion on euthanasia. There is also a slight nudge to the theory of ‘nature vs nurture’ in shaping a person’s behavior. I love books that make the readers ponder, and McDowell did not disappoint me in that aspect.

The author puts emphasis on the diversity of culture in different parts of the world. I liked the glimpses into the cultural practices of Nepal. I could only marvel at his descriptions of the differences between various North American cities.

Coles follows his own advice on writing a memoir with objectivity. Throughout the book, he presents Hiram McDowell just as he is and the readers are free to make their own judgment. This is evident in the following quote:
Make him human...We can’t characterize him as a monster. We have to present the truth of everything he’s done, then let the reader find the monster or the saint.
The book was considerably fast-paced with short chapters and smooth flow, an attribute that is fairly uncommon in character-driven stories. Instead of building up the tempo slowly, the author maintained a constant pace culminating in an apt climax.

However, my views of this book are not without complaints. I felt the female characters were portrayed as insecure, desperate and sometimes overly clingy. Conversely, almost all the major male characters maintain a devil-may-care attitude. Another technical issue I noticed was the inconsistent use of italics. Initially used to indicate prologues and inner thoughts, later entire conversations were written in italics.

Despite this, the book gets a well-deserved 4 out of 4 stars from me. There were a few misspelled words which did not detract from the reading experience. I wholeheartedly recommend McDowell to the readers who like character-driven books. However, a few of the scenes might be unsuitable for the younger readers.

******
McDowell
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Espie
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Post by Espie » 07 Dec 2018, 05:41

Hiram is typically portrayed as a conceited, ruthless man without scruples. Not only that, he is completely oblivious to his shortcomings. Unable to grasp the idea that he might be guilty or responsible for what happens to him, he repeatedly tries to justify himself. Although this irked me initially, I came to realize that we all tend to victimize ourselves and blame others occasionally. Hiram’s flaws thus serve as an eye-opener for all of us.
That's quite strange when expressed, but it's not bereft of truth. Thinking we're perfect or better than others is vanity. We just err differently. Thank you for your profound and well-written review.
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Shrabastee
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Post by Shrabastee » 07 Dec 2018, 06:30

Espie wrote:
07 Dec 2018, 05:41
Hiram is typically portrayed as a conceited, ruthless man without scruples. Not only that, he is completely oblivious to his shortcomings. Unable to grasp the idea that he might be guilty or responsible for what happens to him, he repeatedly tries to justify himself. Although this irked me initially, I came to realize that we all tend to victimize ourselves and blame others occasionally. Hiram’s flaws thus serve as an eye-opener for all of us.
That's quite strange when expressed, but it's not bereft of truth. Thinking we're perfect or better than others is vanity. We just err differently. Thank you for your profound and well-written review.
Thank you for your valuable input, Esperanza! Very true.

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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 28 Dec 2018, 07:09

I couldn't agree more on the point that this is one of the best character development books that I have read so far in our book club. Thank you for pointing that out!
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Shrabastee
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Post by Shrabastee » 28 Dec 2018, 07:17

Sahani Nimandra wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 07:09
I couldn't agree more on the point that this is one of the best character development books that I have read so far in our book club. Thank you for pointing that out!
Thanks Sahani for stopping by. Yes, definitely it was one of the best. However, I wish that the author introduced a little more variation in the other characters, especially the female ones.

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Post by Lunastella » 30 Jan 2019, 06:31

Hiram is typically portrayed as a conceited, ruthless man without scruples. Not only that, he is completely oblivious to his shortcomings. Unable to grasp the idea that he might be guilty or responsible for what happens to him, he repeatedly tries to justify himself. Although this irked me initially, I came to realize that we all tend to victimize ourselves and blame others occasionally. Hiram’s flaws thus serve as an eye-opener for all of us.
I deeply admire your open-minded and self-reflecting attitude towards Hiram. I, personally, couldn't stand the character and I disliked him so much I never got to really enjoy the book. I think you are totally right, we all have our shortcomings. However, the whole misogynistic attitude in this book bothered me too much.
You wrote an amazingly insightful review, thank you.

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Shrabastee
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Post by Shrabastee » 31 Jan 2019, 07:26

Lunastella wrote:
30 Jan 2019, 06:31
Hiram is typically portrayed as a conceited, ruthless man without scruples. Not only that, he is completely oblivious to his shortcomings. Unable to grasp the idea that he might be guilty or responsible for what happens to him, he repeatedly tries to justify himself. Although this irked me initially, I came to realize that we all tend to victimize ourselves and blame others occasionally. Hiram’s flaws thus serve as an eye-opener for all of us.
I deeply admire your open-minded and self-reflecting attitude towards Hiram. I, personally, couldn't stand the character and I disliked him so much I never got to really enjoy the book. I think you are totally right, we all have our shortcomings. However, the whole misogynistic attitude in this book bothered me too much.
You wrote an amazingly insightful review, thank you.
I understand your feelings, Andrea. Yes, the women were needlessly shown as weak and attention-seeking, which was bothersome. I am not sure if this is a recurring theme though, because I remember reading a review of another book by Coles that also makes the same complaint.

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Post by Sunnyroyish » 05 Feb 2019, 05:10

What if there is no purpose of life. What if we can find our own purposes in life. I don't know if the novel answers the question. But the story seems to be written for mature readers. Thanks for your insightful review.
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Post by Susmita Biswas » 05 Feb 2019, 09:14

An inspiring story of a surgeon. There is also a good message. Thanks for the review.

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