I recently read “Blossoms & Shadows” by Lian Hearn and reviewed it for the Japan Society of the UK. Click on the picture below to go to their site and read the review.
Here’s an extract from “Blossoms & Shadows”, in which the narrator, Tsuru, talks about her interest in being a doctor:
My father could not bear it when his patients died, which is a drawback for a doctor as so many of them do. I on the other hand was deeply interested in the fact and the process of death, making me an ideal assistant. My father’s warm nature caused him distress which in turn distressed his patients. When he was upset he had the habit of caressing his arms and patting himself. This became the background sound to death for me, the uneven exhalation of the dying and the gentle pat-pat of my father’s hands on his jacket sleeves. After a time I concluded that my cold approach was more calming than his concern and helped the dying accept what could not be avoided.
I cultivated this coldness into a way of looking that enabled me to see what was truly taking place within the patient’s body. Sometimes I felt as if I had microscope eyes: my father had been given a microscope when he was a student in Nagasaki, and being shown how to look through it for the first time is one of the strongest memories of my childhood. It made me determined to become a doctor myself – not that I dealt with many patients directly, apart from cases of birth and death when I was allowed to assist my father. Medicine was still the domain of men. But sometimes extreme modesty on the part of a bushi woman, or the extreme punctiliousness of her husband, made her reticent about being examined by a man.
“Blossoms & Shadows” by Lian Hearn is available from Amazon (current price: £8.83) or you local bookshop.