3 out of 5 stars
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The Prosector by A. Lee Dellon, MD, PhD, is a book about a woman named Olevia Landsmann and her journey to become a doctor. Olevia's uncle, Albert, suffered from a painful wrist injury; his pain troubled her. She studied medicine, hoping to help her uncle with his pain. Women doctors in the early 1900s were rare; there were only a few institutions where women could study medicine, and women were not allowed to receive formal residency surgical training. Olevia persevered, first attending the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and then the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Olevia became a successful doctor, specializing in peripheral nerve surgery. Her male colleagues felt threatened by her surgical techniques and discoveries. She befriended a female doctor who specialized in gynecology. They provided support for each other through their shared experiences as professional women and became close. Olevia got served legal papers when a family (whose son committed suicide after a failed surgery) sued her. Does Olevia have the strength to keep fighting for the profession that she feels so passionate about? What happens to her?
There are many complexities to this book that make it fascinating and challenging to read. Olevia’s relationship with men, especially her uncle, is one of those complexities. The author does a nice job of developing Olevia as a character, including small details like her attempts to masculinize herself to blend in with her male colleagues. She is a compelling character whose story I wanted to follow through the end of the book. The author provided important historical context, which helped the reader understand how special Olevia was. I appreciated this aspect of the book.
The book would have been easier to read with professional proofreading and editing. For example, there were entire chapters of dialogue between two people, which was challenging for me to follow. In another example, Olevia’s character enjoyed telling stories, which seemed like the author’s way of inserting medical history into the plot. As a reader, I struggled to stay engaged during Olevia’s stories because they were long and detailed. Amusingly, the other characters seemed to struggle with Olevia's lengthy stories as well. In general, the plot could have moved more quickly.
I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. Olevia’s journey was original and interesting, and I enjoyed learning about medicine in the early 1900s. However, the story felt too long and drawn out, and the text had a significant number of errors in it. I would recommend this book to doctors and medical practitioners interested in learning about medicine in the United States in the early 1900s. The author did a lot of research on the topic, which is evident in the text. I would also recommend this book to women who aspire to be doctors; this book offered a fictional but realistic presentation of the challenges women who wanted to be doctors faced at the start of the 20th century.
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