Direct Red (Gabriel Weston)

**(*)

OK let’s get some things straight here.  ‘Direct red’ is the name of a dye, and the narrator uses the phrase as a prop to hold on to when things in the operating theatre become too much and threaten to overwhelm her.  These are not true stories.  It says at the beginning:  This book is not literally true…none of these characters is real…events are a mixture of things that happened and that might have happened.

So what we deduce from the narrative (if we believe it) is that the author–a woman, as the name fails to tell you–did a degree in English Literature and then decided to train as a doctor and indeed become a surgeon.  That sounds like an interesting story, but we don’t really learn anything about it, except there is a description of the narrator meeting a presumably pseudonymous Mr Silk who invites her to his operating theatre to see his…operations…after which she decides to become a surgeon too.

I’m not sure that the background in Eng Lit has helped that much.  There’s a sentence (on p 19 of my edition, referring to Mark the fractured but fit motorcyclist)  that fails to make sense as it stands:

[it was..]He who asked me how trying to become the doctor I was, was feeling.

I guess that should be something like:

He who asked me how I,  trying to become the  doctor as I was, was feeling.

but that’s still pretty clumsy.  That story about the English professor with the aortic aneurysm reminds me of something out of Colin Douglas as well…

Anyway, having been deprived of the interesting story we get a series of vignettes largely connected with surgical episodes.  To me, they’re not really done well enough.  For instance, in the story about Troy the hip-hop DJ from Bradford we meet sullen lovely girls loitered there.  Those of us who live in South London know the kind of [black] girls she means, but I really think the reader needs something more concrete here.

At the end, the narrator describes how a boy in hospital makes her feel guilty about leaving her own child to be tended by paid help, and she gets off the career ladder and takes up a part-time post without prospects of advancement.  The interesting thing about that is that it’s what town-dwellers did in the Middle Ages–sent their offspring to be reared in the country.  But probably not  to protect the mother’s career prospects.

I was interested by the various cases of the narrator unfastening her bra as an intermediate form of relaxation.

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