Cover Image: Country Doctor

Country Doctor

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As the author himself points out, these are not the gentle tales of a certain Darrowby vet, so anyone expecting soft, self-deprecating humour is in for a bit of a rude awakening!

Michael Sparrow fills us in on anecdotes from his training and his various work placements in hospitals, the army and as a GP, and does so with the sharp, black humour of someone who has seen far too much tragedy and human suffering.

The reader gets insight into a world of alcohol and drug abuse, negligence, murder and downright stupidity… and that’s just the doctors! But Dr Sparrow is by no means bringing the profession into disrepute – instead he shows us the toll paid via their own physical and mental health by the caring professions, simply because they do care. The author actually doesn’t come across very well at the start of the book, as he portrays himself as an unwinning combination of cocky and dim, and the humour feels somewhat forced and brash. However, once you get used to the tongue-in-cheek, side-eye style of writing, you come to appreciate his candour and his willingness to sacrifice his pride for the sake of a good story.

Most winning of all, as the book progresses each story is increasingly invested with a light-hearted, wry humour that carries the reader through the book as buoyantly as it must have carried the author through his medical career. There is no wallowing in the horrors and tragedies; no bemoaning the fate of modern medicine and belittling contemporary colleagues. Instead there is a Pythonesque insistence on seeing the funny side to every disaster or mishap, and on seeing the silver lining of redeeming qualities in even the dourest doctor or dullest student.

Which is lucky really, as if you took these stories at face value, you would hesitate to ever set foot in a hospital or surgery again! At which point I suppose all the staff could repair to the pub early and… hmmm, I think I’ve seen through Dr Sparrow’s cunning plan! 😉



In our clinical years, should we survive that far – and by no means everyone does – we get to touch the public, although mostly in places we would each rather we didn’t have to.

– Michael Sparrow, Country Doctor

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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This memoir is a collection of stories of a country GP and though most of them seem slightly unbelievable they are true!

From the ridiculous stories which one finds hard to believe true, to the self derision where the doctor wonders what he is doing in this profession, the book is a bit disjointed and rambling and though at most times funny it was not a book which actually held my interest. 

I was disappointed that for the most part it seemed as if medical students missed classes or were too hungover to follow these classes. Dented my appreciation of doctors found in this story though right now my appreciation of all medical professionals are at its very height.
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Michael Sparrow gives us an interesting look into what life in medical school and as a doctor was like for him. I did expect this to be more stories from his life after he became a doctor but it actually seemed to concentrate more on his student days. I found many of the stories laugh out loud funny and sniggered at a few others. I am not sure if it is because I was raised by someone in the medical profession or if I've just read enough but nothing I read was surprising as to what medical school was like or how it is to deal with patients everyday. 

If you are expecting a feel good book that gives you the warm and fuzzies like James Herriot then you might want to skip this one. If you want a book that makes you laugh with the ridiculousness that medical school, military service and dealing with patients provides pick this book up.
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Although a medical doctor, not a veterinarian, Country Doctor is reminiscent of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small. From thoughts of becoming a doctor, "Just Don't", through medical school escapades, to becoming a responsible adult with a medical practice, Michael Sparrow is immensely entertaining.

Country Doctor is an easy and enjoyable read. I would recommend this title to anyone who enjoys real life essays.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free digital copy of this title to review from Net Galley.

#CountryDoctor#NetGalley
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Country Doctor was a no for me. I was crude in places with very dark humor that wasn't all that funny. It had a few plus moments of actually good things for his patients, but too few for this reader. I found at times I just wanted to delete the book, but I toiled on until the end with no improvement. Giving it 2 stars is generous, sorry a James Herriot, of Yorkshire vet fame you are not, although you seem to be a wannabe.
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Country Doctor, originally published in 2002, when the author had recently retired, is part of a series of memoirs about his medical career. Described on the front as “Hilarious true stories from a country practice”, in reality it’s a jumbled series of anecdotes, none of which paint him in a good light, interspersed with musings about the difficulties inherent in being a doctor.
I got this from NetGalley so it seems it’s been republished recently alongside his other books. I note that the NG page is full of 4 and 5 star reviews, while on GoodReads they are mostly 2 and 3 stars, which sadly is what it’s getting from me.

Normally I put the same review on GR, NG, and Amazon but in this case I’ll be leaving the personal aspects of my review out from what I post on NG, and as per my reviewing policy won’t be putting this on Amazon unless NetGalley or the publisher specifically ask me to (which is unlikely as it’s unlikely to help their sales.) I’ve just read a few posts recently on a Facebook group I’m in, about whether or not one should leave negative reviews - it seems I’m in the minority as many readers seem not to want to hurt an author’s feelings - well I was given this for a review and there was no requirement that it be positive. My main duty is to other readers. Sparrow sounds like he’s got thick enough skin to be able to cope with my feedback, if he even reads it.

I was interested to read this - and feel well qualified to review it - as a British trained GP - although I ended up in New Zealand rather than Cornwall, and moved out of GP five years ago. The timelines are confusing, as he seems to have graduated in the late 1970s (I qualified in 1993) but he must’ve retired early if he wrote this in 2002 - he doesn’t go into this. Both medicine in general and General Practice In particular have changed enormously since then, although I haven’t worked in the UK since 2002 - but have kept up enough with the BMJ (British Medical Journal) to know that however bad it was then, being a doctor in the UK is ten times worse now. 

Purported to be about life as a rural family doctor, this doesn’t actually cover that until about three quarters of the way through, instead being mostly a badly organised collection of anecdotes about the author’s time at medical school and as a junior hospital doctor, then as a GP in the RAF, including a stint in Belize - which he (unforgivably) describes in chapter headings as being in South America! (I knew that it was in Central America even before I became a travel doctor, and I haven’t even been there.) 

I’m not sure who he’s trying to impress but the constant references to drinking, all the time, including while on duty, go way beyond normal Jack the Lad student drunkenness (and I trained in Edinburgh so I know enough about that) and become both boring and distasteful. Similarly, all his comments about his own professional inadequacy/incompetence - which I think are meant to come across as amusing self-deprecation - would be grounds for a charge of bringing the profession into disrepute if this had happened more recently. His collusion in various cover-ups - which he expresses vague regret about - are shameful and sometimes even horrific. Even his attitude to his elective was pretty appalling. To portray this dishonesty as normal and acceptable in a book published now does no one any favours.

In the last quarter of the book, Sparrow finally tells some tales about his patients in General Practice, many of which triggered memories of anecdotes of my own, as could probably all GPs. I could probably write a book of my own about these, except I know I’m not “hilarious” so I won’t bother. Many of his cases were deeply sad, and these later chapters do reveal some glimpses of some maturity and insight - especially the chapter on suicide and addiction within the profession. He soon reverts to sniggery toilet-humour type anecdotes, however,  about objects removed from orifices. I guess that these are what sell? Then we’re back in Belize and another rumination about a traumatic experience that he characteristically brushes off and turns into a joke. 

I swithered between 2 and 3 stars here - on the plus side, Sparrow can write, and some of his tales were certainly illuminating. Ultimately I’m rounding down, because I didn’t really enjoy reading this and can’t recommend it. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this free review copy.
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It is a light hearted book. It describes very critical events of doctors patient relationship in a light hearted and really funny way.
It is a very hilarious book and Dr Sparrow has unique style of writing.
He describes situations in a way that makes you laugh.
You read the sentences, then meaning sets in and then there is giggling sensation.
Volantarily he undermines his own IQ and talent and makes fun of himself.
And he has really emotional description of his friends in between.
I am not sure all events are true, but they are all funny.
Amount of alcohol that he takes is above normal.
It should be read without any judgement of description of patients and diseases in a very light and joke like pattern.
Book is hard to put down and takes you to countryside where doctor sparrow treats his patients with his limited resources.
He has written three more books. I will also like to read them. But sadly they are currently unavailable on amazon.in.
It is a really funny book that is highly recommend to all readers, especially to those with medical backgrounds.
Thanks netgalley and publisher for review copy.
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An interesting, comical read about (of course)  a Country Doctor, who no doubt gets himself into funny shenanigans. This book made me chuckle here and there, but wouldn't be something I would normally pick up. 

If you enjoy blunt, british humour, you will enjoy this book. I just may recommend it to my father in law!
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The first thing that I thought when reading this book was, "Boy, I'm glad he is not my GP!" because it didn't sound like he got up to much at med school, other than trouble and drinking.
The second thing I thought was how brave he was admitting his shortcomings and errors so publicly.
The third thing was. "Is that his real name?"
And so begins our journey down the memory path of Dr Michael Sparrow. There were parts that were laugh out loud funny interspersed with more serious, thoughtful points. I did not enjoy the med school drunken antics part, but later on his anecdotes were very good, although at times it did feel to me he was trying to channel James Herriot's method of storytelling.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me the chance to read this book.
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You'll Never Look At Doctors The Same Again
If you enjoy British humor, you'll enjoy this book. The book is full of the author's humorous accounts of assorted happenings in his life and career. Many of the stories involve drinking vast amounts of alcohol. Many involve dealing with associates who do not do their job creating havoc at the hospital. I think that that the best way to approach this memoir is with the certain knowledge that many doctors pass their classes with a grade of D. I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
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I was interested in this book as I was after some laughs and it struck me as an 'All Creatures Great and Small' type book, good stories and lots of laughs. In fact, I remember laughing so hard I couldn't breathe when reading James Herriot's books many years ago.

But Michael Sparrow's offering was disappointing. The earlier stories were self-indulgent, involving stories of him drinking too much and being a bit of a lad - thought the whole thing was a bit juvenile and much of it too unreal to believe. The book read a bit better as it developed, but again it all seemed to focus on him, his views and his part in the story rather than let the characters and stories speak for themselves. To be sure, there are plenty of funny stories in health.

The anecdotes were a bit all over the place and they weren't allowed to develop, they were too short and often contained numerous other bits and pieces and interjections. 

To me, this book's only saving grace was the odd interesting medical fact - but all in all it was quite disappointing. 

I would like to thank NetGalley for a copy of this book in return for a review
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I guess many readers may open this book expecting a sort of hybrid of James Herriot mixed with Adam Kay. Sad to say, any such expectations will be doomed to disappointment. It’s not that the book lacks humour, there are enough laugh out loud moments to satisfy this requirement. It’s just that the ‘tone’ of the book occasionally jars too sharply. There is a very difficult balance to be struck by a doctor writing a book such as this, and ‘Dr Sparrow’ perhaps doesn’t always get this balance right. Adam Kay has demonstrated that the rather black humour for which the medical profession is notorious needn’t stand in the way of achieving that elusive balance. The almost mandatory arrows directed to the (admittedly crucifying) stresses and trials of medical training as a junior doctor do not strike a false note, so what is it that misses the target? 

This is always going to be a highly subjective opinion but, for this reader, at least, there are one or two episodes that ought to have been edited out, and, perhaps, a little too much effort devoted to establishing a ‘Jack the Lad’ persona through some (exaggerated?) accounts. This reader found those episodes that allowed the professional trying to do his best for his patients to be seen, albeit with a carefully attuned ear for the humour to be found in the everyday, could have been given greater prominence at the expense of some of the less attractive episodes.

However, there is sufficient in the book to maintain the reader’s interest, and a good supply of merriment. It may be Michael Sparrow’ misfortune that James Herriot and Adam Kay, in their different ways, have set the bar quite high.
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This follows Michael Sparrow the author and General Practitioner in the English Countryside. While reading the first twenty percent of this book I wondered why anyone would want this man as a doctor.
But as the story progress he gets better at his craft. This follows him from school through a stint in the RAF with time spent in Belize. As he comes back to the English Countryside it takes you in to a side of medicine that many may not get to experience leaving in farm and ranch community were a house call maybe twenty minutes away. These place so small that a trip is not wasted such as the office secretary may drop off a couple prescriptions to patients along the way. There were times that he even as had the opportunity to try his hand at being a vet like the time he had patient whose dog was struggling and come to find out he had a couple of fingers stuck in his throat. For a while I was wondering were the humor was going to come it took a while but ii is there depending on your interpretation it maybe a little disturbing. There is a chapter that also deals with what happens to these givers of life when the they fall off the rails. This is worth a read and I would recommend it.
I received an ARC from Netgalley for a fair and honest review. I see that this book has been released a few times in the past so it must be the most current version coming.
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If you were hoping that Michael Sparrow would prove to be another James Herriot then I am sorry you are going to be disappointed, he isn’t!. He does try with loads of stories from his career in medicine from medical school, through RAF into general practice in Devon thats the problem there are just so many stories if maybe they were a little longer, more believable even, then it would have been so much better. There is no doubt that he tells a good tale and he has experienced more in his lifetime than probable the rest of us can only dream about, it is just that we dream and are maybe envious. Like most doctors, for some reason, he  thinks only they work long unsocial hours, that they are underpaid and overworked but we don’t need reminding of his opinion quite so often thank you. Not a book I would read twice and nor will I seek out the next instalment but you may enjoy it so give it a go and make your own mind up.
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I think my expectations were too high and I expected a sort of James Herriot type of stories.
Unfortunately I was wrong and even if it made laugh at times the book didn't keep my attention.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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An interesting read about a country doctor (obviously). An easy book to pick up and to put down. Had it's moments, and if I was more in the medical field may have meant more. Didn't find a lot funny, so may just be me. Would recommend.
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This book didn't grab my attention at all. It felt forced and wasn't very enjoyable. I stuck with it to the end so I could give as positive review as I could but it just didn't work for me
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An easy read - nice to read when you need to switch off a bit. Started off a bit oddly, going back and forth but the stories he told were genuinely funny.
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The first part of this book could aptly be titled The (Mostly) Drunken Mishaps and Adventures of an Accidental Doctor. After a lackluster academic showing, and for reasons that aren't quite clear, the author settled on a career in medicine where he apparently never let a little thing like medical school interfere with a chance to visit the local pub. Any chance to visit any pub. To the point that, if he is to be believed, he was drunk or hungover on duty a great deal of the time. He comes across as obnoxious, rude, and mostly unconcerned with much of anything but himself. 

That pretty much sums things up until around the 43% mark (according to my trusty Kindle). 

It's at that point that the doctor, now in the RAF, is stationed in Belize. Things get much more interesting from here on in... Mostly because the focal point of the stories are someone other than the doctor himself. Makes for much better reading.

After the Belize portion of the book we finally get around to the promised anecdotes of a country doctor. That part is okay. By this time the author has done such a great job of presenting himself as an obnoxious jerk who finds humor at the expense of others (including his own patients) that he and his reminisces are just about irredeemable. Between snarky commentary and bouts of  self-pity on the imposition of having to administer to patients this book falls far short of entertaining. 

I realize that some of it is most likely intended as tongue-in-cheek humor - the problem is that it doesn't succeed at it.

***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free digital copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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Perhaps I was expecting this book to be more like the James Herriot books that I read from days of old. Whatever it is, I am rather disappointed.  I had no interest in reading about the students days which took up about a quarter of the book,

Still, this book may amuse medical students and others in the medical world. It was just not for me.

Thank you Netgalley and Duckworth Books for the ARC. This is my honest review.
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