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BOOK REVIEW: THE CRIMSON PORTRAIT
BY JODY SHIELDS

We hope you enjoy this book review by Teri Davis.

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“War is the only proper school of surgeons.” - Hippocrates

During World War I, a military hospital is set up in an estate outside of London, which is now Catherine’s home.

Catherine grew up in a privileged, high class family of the time period who had particular social rules to be followed. She married well in that her husband, a doctor, owned this immense estate. Before he joined the war, Catherine’s husband, Charles, had arranged for his estate to be utilized as a medical hospital if needed in the war. Charles quickly died in the war.

This book is about the hospital, Catherine’s home with the patients and Catherine adjusting to being a widow with the patients and medical staff at her house. This hospital specializes in treating those patients who have extreme facial wounds that are almost impossible to heal. This was a time period when the wounds were most extreme in that throughout history, most of these patients died. Unfortunately, this was the first opportunity recorded in humankind when the doctor’s attempted to begin the remaking of the face and jaw and the entire science of plastic surgery. The hospital was equipped with dentists and surgeons who were working cooperatively to evolve their science. Also, this was the time when masks were made to hide imperfections and to assist each individual patient to be reunited with the family and past life.

Besides the patients healing, Catherine is frequently haunted with her husband’s scent, shadow, or seeing his mannerisms in other patients, especially one, Julian. Julian is so disfigured that he is to wear a mask that closely resembles Charles.

I found the conflict of this novel to be Catherine’s healing in being a widow and the patient’s slow healing in being grossly disfigured. The novel is well-written and a realistic reflection of the time period. The subject matter though at times is depressing and slow moving since the doctors’ constant experimenting at attempting to rebuild jaws and faces is also slow in healing and not always successful. It is amazing to discover the types of materials used, and the psychological difficulties of the patients, families, and the staff.

Overall, I recommend this book because it is an excellent reflection of the lifestyle of 1915. It is not high action, because the subject and healing are not high action events. These are slow and require patience. Enjoy this book as evidence of the past.

REVIEWED BY TERI DAVIS

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, TERI DAVIS


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