Cover Image: The King's Anatomist

The King's Anatomist

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A well-told tale that is one part coming-of-age story and one part on-the-road, as much of the main character’s remembrance of his childhood friend occurs while he searches for him. Fascinating bits of Renaissance medicine as men of science finally begin to let go of Galenism. How printing presses changed things but how laborious they still were, all woven seamlessly into the story. An adventure but also a story about friendships and loyalty in the period leading up to the Enlightenment. And I love the epistolary elements here, also.
Very interesting, very well written with a strong voice.
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Like medical students before him, Andreas Vesalius knew the Greek physician Galen set the standards as the final authority in medicine. However, Vesalius found himself questioning whether Galen’s observations regarding anatomy were correct. Author Ron Blumenfeld delves deep into the 16th century for the historical mystery titled The King’s Anatomist.

At the beginning of the book, the author provides a timeline of milestones for Vesalius and a guide of historical figures appearing in the story. I found the guide to be especially helpful in navigating the characters and understanding their relevance. Additionally, there is a list of illustrations that appear throughout the book. All of this information, presented before even the first chapter, helps to showcase the book as having its roots in history. The beauty of historical fiction is being able to take those historical elements and use them to provide an engaging story.

Using personal letters, the story unfolds with a mix of past and present. Of particular interest is Vesalius’s early adventures in the dissection of animals and the development of theories. The mystery aspect unfolds with an investigation into Vesalius’s death by one of his close friends, Jan.

I found the story to be interesting, despite it being something I typically wouldn’t select. The author’s skill was evident in the development of the details. The King’s Anatomist sheds light on a little known piece of history.

Title reviewed for Novels Alive
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Andreas Vesalius, the King's Anatomist, is seen through the eyes of a mathematician Dutch friend.  Ron Blumenfeld leads us into the private and public life of Vesalius, who brought medicine up to date with real anatomical discoveries through dissection of the human body in the seventeenth century.  While some characters are invented the life of Vesalius is conveyed in this historical novel.
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*Many thanks to Ron Bluemfeld, History Through Fiction, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
One of the few fictional characters is the narrator, Andreas Vesalius's friend, who undertakes a journey to his friend's grave after receiving the news of his demise. The journey takes a long time and is an opportunity for Jan to recall his youth and his friendships, his university times and his love. 
The Vesalius's life and his research into atonomy in the 16th century was a fascinating journey for me. The writing is meant to tell a story of real people whose visions allowed medicine to develop in the next centuries.
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Author Ron Blumenfeld already has a long career behind him. He retired as a pediatrician and health care executive. I certainly hope he will have a long and healthy life still before him, because I just loved this book and want to read more of this author. 
I chose to request this book because I like books by David Field (Carlyle & West Mysteries, set in the 1890’s in London), Graham Brack (Master Mercurius Mysteries, set in circa 1760 in Leiden, Delft, Amsterdam) Ambrose Perry (Raven, Fisher and Simpson, set in 1850 in Edinburgh) and many more. What they all have in common is this wonderful mix of fact and fiction, written in an engaging style with strong characters and – important to me – humor. 
The book starts with a comprehensive list of historical figures and ends with an afterword from the author in which he guides the reader to interesting reading material. It’s the kind of book where you are happy to read it from a tablet so you can access Wikipedia at any moment to look for more information. 
The characters ánd the story ticked all the boxes for me. I have an interested in reading about medical history and of course I’m familiar with some of the paintings the author uses as illustrations in his book. It was instructive and made me want to read more. 
I don’t have to repeat the story here because that’s all in the blurb. Except for the main storyline there are lots of little things to pique the mind. Life was all but easy in that era, and the author did an excellent job in creating a very real atmosphere.
Thanks to Netgalley for this review copy.
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This was a such captivating story!! It immediately draws you into the world of 16th century Brussels and the life of Andreas Vesalius. Andreas Vesalius was familiar to me as the father of modern anatomy but I didn't know much else about his life. The story of his life is told through his closest friend Jan van den Bossche as he learns of Andreas' death following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Through Jan's memories we get to learn about Andreas and his passion for learning about the human body and the publication of his famous book. It also highlights some of the difficulties he faced as he served several different monarchs. The world is brought to life so well, all of the descriptions of Andreas' work, the difficulty of travel during this time and the complexities of the political and religious climate make this such an immersive read. The journey that Jan undertakes along with his relationship with Anne Vesalius and the mystery around Andreas' death make for a truly wonderful story. This tale has so much to recommend it to anyone who loves the history of this time period as well as the history of one of the greats in science. A wonderful debut novel!!!
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Everything a reader could want in a historical work based on a real historical person: fascinating  characters, an era of change and conflict and ferment, historical persons of note, and a subtle, skillful mystery. Andreas Vesalius was the father of anatomy, and his life story as told by one of his oldest friends is fascinating. When his friend determines to visit Vesalius' grave on a far-off island in Greece, he must navigate not only across the continent and over the alps, but revisit the past at various stops. One night, he has a dream in which Vesalius tells him not to come, but he presses on. And stumbles into a shocking mystery. Beautifully researched, and the creative liberties the author takes really amp up the story. I'm looking forward to more from this author. Great read! Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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I haven't finished by the archive date, but will be reviewing as part of the HFVBT blog tour on 10/20/2021 at I've given a 3 star as an average since I haven't had a chance to complete.
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Debut author Ron Blumenfeld explores the history of medicine and anatomy while focusing on the life of the revolutionary Flemish physician and anatomist who dared to push the boundaries of Renaissance science. Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), committed to his discipline and a Renaissance trailblazer, highlighted the importance of dissection as well as the importance of publishing findings which didn’t fit into the beliefs of his day. It’s for this reason that we know him as the Father of Modern Anatomy. 

Blumenfeld has created a fictional character, Jan van den Bossche, a talented mathematician, as the narrator in this enlightening account of Andreas Vesalius and has crafted him with impressive authenticity. Jan and Andreas’s friendship began on their first day of school when their teacher pointed out that they were born on the same day – December 31, 1514 – mere streets apart! The boys soon became inseparable and called themselves the Astral Twins. 

When Jan learns of his dear friend’s death in 1565, he sets out for the Greek Island of Zante to pay his last respects to his childhood friend. It’s during this journey that readers learn of Andreas’s life as Jan attempts to recall fond memories for his servant, Marcus. Readers become aware that the retelling of the friendship is as important for Marcus as it is for Jan, for it’s in the retelling that Jan becomes enlightened regarding Andreas’s bond with the King of Spain. In telling Marcus about Andreas’s wife, Jan realizes that he still cares deeply for her as he did before she became Andreas’s wife. This serves as the reminder that at a certain point in our adult life we become much better at examining and understanding the life we have lived – ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ 

A meticulously researched medical history featuring incredibly developed characters, this debut novel is impressive. Using multiple techniques in the narrative (thoughts, images, flashbacks and written correspondence) and peppering these with mystery, shocking discovery, and romance keeps the pacing even and the interest high. The author’s mesmerizing prose is filled with rich descriptions and an enlightening recounting of important medical discoveries. It accurately captures the times in which Vesalius lived. Although at times I felt like I was in a little over my head and treading water, I could still appreciate the importance of the foil that the Greek physician, Galen, serves for Vesalius’s medical breakthrough as well as appreciate the unlikely meetup of the Swiss physician, Paracelsus, and Vesalius. Richly educated and thoroughly impressed, I was left with the conclusion that perhaps I don’t know my friends as well as I’d like to think I know them. As with all great historical fiction, this novel has served as the catalyst to dig deeper into the life of this controversial anatomist. 

Publishes October 12, 2021.

I was gifted this advance copy by Ron Blumenfeld, History Through Fiction, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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This novel tells the story of Andreas Vesalius, the real-life Renaissance physician who revolutionised the study of anatomy and the practice of medicine, who lived between 1514 and 1564. 

The narrator is Jan van den Bossche (a fictional character, though an intriguing character study in his own right, and an engaging storyteller). When in 1565, Jan learns that Andreas has died on the Greek island of Zante, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he decides to travel to the island to pay his last respects to his lifelong friend; the The two first met on their first day at school, in Brussels in 1520; and they called themselves the Astral Twins, as "we were born in the early morning hours of December 31, 1514, just a few blocks apart — the sun, moon, stars, and planets all tugging equally from the heavens at our squirming bodies as we escaped our mothers’ wombs. 
Jan is accompanied on the journey by his long-time servant, Marcus Schoop. 
During the journey, Jan recounts the story of Andreas's life, through visits to places where he or they lived and worked, meetings with former friends and colleagues, letters to and from those friends and colleagues, and Jan's inner monologues to his much-loved and much-missed friend. It's an effective and well-worked narrative structure.

Slowly, we discover (as Jan does) that there has been a dark side to Andreas's life, and in his relationship with his employer, King Philip of Spain. And, Jan explores his feelings for Anne, Andreas' wife with whom he was once infatuated .... and realises he still is.

Once on Zante, however, Jan discovers a shocking secret about Andreas' death and burial - one which changes everything.

As author Ron Blumenfeld declares in his afterword, the book is "work of fiction, but my aim was to build the plot around what is known or widely accepted about the life and times of Andreas Vesalius". The level of historical detail is convincing, without being overwhelming (a common fault in historical fiction, and as a debut author Ron Blumenfeld is to be congratulated on avoiding this).

All in all, an engaging and enjoyable read.
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I feel very fortunate to have a read an ARC of the King's Anatomist prior to the October 2021 release date. Thank you to NetGalley and History Through Fiction for providing me the opportunity to do so in exchange for an honest review. 

As a nurse and former student dissector in a cadaver lab, I have always been fascinated by the history of medicine and scientific advances. However, I admit, rather ashamedly, that I was not familiar with Vesalius prior to picking up this novel. Blumenfeld's novel introduces the reader to Vesalius through his  fictional best friend and first person narrator, Jan van den Bossche, who goes on a journey to pay respects to the late Vesalius after he receives news of his tragic death in Greece. The journey that unfolds is unexpected and uncovers the unsettling realization that one does not always know the inner lives of one's closest companions. This novel artfully blends mystery, medical history, and European history,  while providing poignant commentary on the messy nature of personal relationships. 

I am absolutely blown away that this is Blumenfeld's debut novel! The characters are so well developed, the prose witty and natural, the historical and medical content well-researched, and the plot compelling to the very end. It is a bold move to blend internal dialogue, letters, and flashbacks into the main storyline, but Blumenfeld manages this style expertly. I look forward to recommending The King's Anatomist to colleagues, mentors, friends, and family!
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What a wonderful debut!  The narrative style admittedly took some chapters to get used to as it isn't intuitive. In essence, Blumfeld interestingly chose to use the memories that his narrator, Jan van den Bossche, has on his journey to pay respects to his friend's final resting place as a means to deliver a biographical story of Andreas Vesalius. In summary, Vesalius was a radical in his day as his medical findings contradicted the accepted beliefs of medicine at the time. He embraced and encouraged the use of dissection on human corpses to fully understand human anatomy. Vesalius was a professor at the University of Padua and then the imperial physician in the court of Emperor Charles I. Blumfeld used the fictional lifelong friendship of the two to uncover a secret side to Vesalius. As van den Bossche discovers the truth about his friend he grapples with the enormity of the consequences of his friend's actions. 
Blumfeld disperses images throughout the text and it is magnificent! The cover itself is a reproduction of a portrait of Vesalius. I highly recommend this one due to its unique subject, its interesting style, and the use of visual components to truly engage the reader. 
I received a copy of this title via the publisher through NetGalley.
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Thank you @Netgalley and @historythroughfiction for this ARC copy in return for an honest review.

Based on the life of controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius and narrated by his longterm friend reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche, it involves the shattering news of the death of a comrade and an Odyssey to discover what happened in the final months of his life.  Pact with history, mystery and medical discovery, it ultimately leads to the uncovering that a dear friends passing, isn’t as straight forward as it seems.

I think the narrative style was bold, but well executed.  You will either love it or find it prevents you from fully immersing yourself in the story.  I personally really enjoyed it, it felt solid and intelligent and I think it was necessary, to establish what these characters meant to each other.  Told through a combination of flashbacks and inner dialogue, almost letter like prose, it creates the pace of a perfect slow burner, to be read in front of a fire on a cold Autumn night.  

What also appealed to me , was the authors skill at the character driven scenes, so much so I couldn’t decide if the story was plot or character based  The friendship between the two men was palatable, it certainly would have been a shame not to have experienced the depth of their connection and so again I was grateful for the writing style. I enjoyed the complex relationship between Anne and Jan also.  

I requested this book because I have a keen interest in anatomy and enjoy historical fiction and the book didn’t disappoint on either.  It was evident that plenty of research went into the writing and now I’m on the hunt for books of a similar time period to scratch the itch.  

The Kings Anatomist is out 12/10/21

#TheKingsAnatomist #netgalley #arc
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This story brings an interesting figure who marked his place in history by his discovery in anatomy. Andreas Vesalius is known as the founder of modern anatomy. His story is revealed through his friend Jan van den Bossche, mathematician.

Brussels, 1565. Jan receives news of his friend’s death on the Greek island of Zante. He decides to make the journey to the island to say his farewell.

As he journeys, through flashbacks, letters and inner dialogue, the story reveals how the two men met and how they forged friendship. The story also holds some mystery.

It is set during tumultuous time of Europe, and bringing some important medical discoveries.

The story is rich in historical background, told with a crisp prose and having fast pace. However, the narration feels distant. I don’t mind flashbacks, but the combination with letters and inner dialogue kept me at distance. I didn’t fully connect with the narration, which brings a remarkable anatomist.
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I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy The King’s Anatomist, as I have no real interest in medical issues in the 1500s. I know who Galen and Parascelsus are, sort of. But that’s about it. 

That being said, I found myself strangely involved in the controversies laid out in this book. When those medical arguments gave way to the mystery of the anatomist’s death, I was hooked.

This is a well-conceived novel with an interesting narrative approach that is surprisingly successful. Switching back and forth in time and using a narrator who is not the primary subject of the story is a risk that the author pulls off beautifully.

My only issue with this novel (and the reason for the four stars) is that it uses imagined events to propel the plot forward at key moments. While this makes for engaging historical fiction, it seems a stretch to call it History Through Fiction. I might have felt differently if the author had included a note that explained his rationale for the decisions he made with some historical information that provided support for his plot points, even if they were only “the King was known for pettiness,” or “we have no reason to believe otherwise.”

All in all, The King’s Anatomist is an entertaining and informative read that gives the flavor of the times and provides an engaging story about a topic I didn’t know was interesting enough for an entire book. I look forward to more novels from this author.
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An elegant, eloquent read leads you gently through an epic tale. This mystery traces the fictionalised life story of controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius. As told by his close personal friend, reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche, their tale takes you from cultured Venice to a remote Greek Isle as Jan retraces some of the highlights of their lives. Not only will you learn the history of some of the most important medical discoveries of that era but you will share their life's journey as Jan thinks back on their choices and relationships. I look forward to more great reads from this debut novelist.
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A revolutionary anatomist, a memory-laden journey, and a shocking discovery.

In 1565 Brussels, the reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche receives shattering news that his lifelong friend, the renowned and controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius, has died on the Greek island of Zante returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jan decides to journey to his friend's grave to offer his last goodbye.

Jan's sentimental and arduous journey to Greece with his assistant Marcus is marked by shared memories, recalled letters, and inner dialogues with Andreas, all devices to shed light on Andreas' development as a scientist, physician, and anatomist. But the journey also gradually uncovers a dark side of Andreas even as Jan yearns for the widow of Vesalius, Anne.

When Jan and Marcus finally arrive on Zante, the story takes a major twist as a disturbing mystery unfolds. Jan and Marcus are forced to take a drastic and risky measure that leads to a shocking discovery. On his return home, Jan learns that Andreas was an unknowing pawn in a standoff between King Philip of Spain, his employer, and Venice. When he arrives home in Brussels, he must finally reckon with his feelings for Anne.

A debut novel by Ron Blumenfeld, The King's Anatomist is a fascinating medical history blended eloquently with meaningful relationships and a riveting mystery. Set within a pivotal time in European history, the story carries readers through some of the most important medical discoveries while engaging them in a deeply personal story of growing older and confronting relationships. A fictional masterpiece with real and relevant historical sources, The King's Anatomist is as enlightening as it is enjoyable.
A definite ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read
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Andries van Wesel - (Latinized Andreas Vesalius - Brussels, December 31, 1514 – Zakynthos (Greece), October 15, 1564) was a Flemish physician and anatomist of German descent. He is better known by  his last name, "Vesalius"
Vesalius was one of the founders of anatomy. He wrote the first complete book on human anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Seven books on the structure of the human body), printed by Johannes Oporinus (Basel, 1543).
Besides the autopsy on dead people, Vesalius also did autopsy on dead animals for comparison and also vivisection on animals. He died on the Greek island Zykanthos. 

I learned about van Wesel when I was still in secondary school, he is (also) part of Dutch cultural history.  Oddly, I have always linked him to one of Rembrandts’ paintings. (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp).  

I had expected a nonfiction novel, instead the author has opted for a narrative in the first person. Personally, I'd preferred a (literary) nonfiction, but this can work as well, and will acquire a wider audience, surely. 
This is a fascinating story about a fascinating man, living in fascinating times, when anatomy  was still in its infancy.

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC.
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This book is difficult to classify but I hope that won’t stop people from choosing it as it is fascinating, entertaining and educational.  Is it a mystery? Yes.  Is it historical fiction? Yes.  Is it an exploration of medical practices? Yes.  And all of this comes together in one remarkable book,  With just the right level of detail, the reader is educated almost by stealth about the history of medicine and anatomy.  The characters are more relatable that I expected, noting their complexity.  Definitely a book to read, regardless of your usual genre of interest.
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Nicely done historical fiction with a cast of interesting characters - I mean when do you get to read about early anatomists?   I found the topic and the characters engaging and the story flowed across the 1500's as if you are there.  If you like well-written fiction from the middle ages, don't pass this one up!
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