Breathing for Two

Breathing for Two
Published: November 30, 2013
Ever wonder exactly why anesthesiologists describe their job as hours of boredom, moments of panic? With gentle precision, anesthesiologist Wolf Pascoe teases apart an overlooked world and unveils the eggshell dance that takes place at the head of an operating table. A personal odyssey that goes deep into the heart of anesthesia's most fearsome mystery—breathing—this short book offers a seat on the stage of humanity's original theatre. It will change the way you think about life, and breath.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

Authoritative, humane and dignified

This is a personal memoir by an anaesthetist about what his job entails, set against the context of the history of anaesthesia, from Greek mythology through to when it started to become more routine in the 19th century.

While the narrative is authoritative, humane and dignified, the author is frank about past failures and difficulties, and less forthcoming about his successes. It soon becomes clear that any operation can bring risk, with potential challenges that might strike at any time to endanger the patient and alarm the anaesthetist. The author often compares his tasks to being an airline pilot – a pilot who sometimes has to fly and land in fog.

The author’s carefully onsidered and controlled prose is highly expressive, sometimes verging on the poetic, using analogies and similes to help the reader understand just what it’s like to be in his role in the operating theatre – a role that is often underrated because it is a relatively silent one, and low profile. In medical dramas, the camera will focus on the surgeon, not the anaesthetist, who is generally treated as an also-ran, although without him the operation could not take place.

This book therefore does a good PR job for anaesthetists everywhere by raising the profile of the importance and challenge of the job they do. The reader is likely to end the book thankful for the anaesthetist’s expertise, as much as for the surgeon’s, and grateful to live in the age of modern medicine.

This is a short book, and I could happily have kept reading for another 100 pages or more. In fact, I felt a little disappointed that the author had not written more, as he must have plenty more anecdotes to share. But it wasn’t just the subject matter, but the high quality of the prose and enjoyment in the author’s company that left me craving more.

The book was well presented and well formatted, and the simple, understated but smart and eyecatching cover fits it well.

“Breathing for Two” would be enjoyed by anyone interested in medical and surgical matters, both present and historic, whether or not they have had or are expecting to have surgery. A word of caution though: anyone about to undergo surgery should avoid this book until after they’ve come round from their anaesthetic!

Follow the Joy – A Memoir

Follow the Joy – A Memoir
Categories: ,
Published: August 16, 2013
I believe our intuition can guide us to happiness. When I was 27, I bought a one-way ticket to India to put my beliefs to the test, and it worked.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

September 8, 2014

‘Follow The Joy’ is a true story of what happened when, at 27, Jason Kurtz bought a one-way ticket to India and let intuition be his guide.  He studied meditation, taught English to Tibetan monks, and volunteered at the Mother Theresa Homes for the Destitute and Dying.  He learnt to live day to day, be open to unexpected possibilities and ultimately to follow his joy.

The thing that is immediately and wonderfully apparent in this memoir is that the author knows how to write well. This book is a pleasure to read. The author skilfully teases out the theme of how to live a compassionate life and imbues it with the kind of tension we expect in a novel. We share Jason’s hopes and fears, and his struggles with the reality of life for a foreigner in India and with his own insecurities. India comes alive on the pages of this book, and the story itself reflects the extremes of spiritual peace and bustling activity of India itself. This ultimately spiritual journey builds to the point where Jason finds himself holding the hand of a dying man in one of the Mother Theresa Homes. The whole section of Jason’s experiences in the Homes is highly moving.

I could talk about how well-drawn Jason is, and how alive are the other characters; I could talk about how good the prose it, how well described the settings, and how well-constructed the story is, or I can simply say that I cannot fault this book. It is, quite simply, an excellent example of a memoir.