Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tell Me Where It Hurts, by Dr. Nick Trout

Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon, by Dr. Nick Trout

As a kid I found James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small on my mother’s bookshelf, and after reading it quickly devoured the rest of the set. When my brother-in-law offered to lend me Tell Me Where It Hurts by a different English vet (albeit one living in Boston), I eagerly accepted. While this more recent book didn’t quite live up to my memory of Herriot’s work, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The writing was extremely witty; Trout’s use of language had me in stitches more than once. For instance, in his early days as a vet he was nervous talking to clients and he “would begin to itch. If you took a binge-drinking frat boy, stripped him naked, and hazed him with a gallon bucket full of ravenous fire ants poured over his entire body including his nether regions, I believe you would have a reasonable approximation of the degree of itchiness that ensued.” Trout also has a knack for anthropomorphizing the animals we meet in his clinic. A wired, nervous dog in the waiting room is described as “scanning the crowd for potential assassins as part of a Secret Service detail.” The book is riddled with funny and effective phrases like these.

The stories Trout tells do a great job of relating what it must be like to be a veterinarian. He captures both the joy of successfully treating a sick animal and the heartache and grief of a passing family pet equally well. I also got a good idea of what this profession means to the author and what being a vet is all about: “striving for a connection and collaboration between two completely different species ... trying to help a frightened, sick animal with their unequivocal acceptance of your intentions ... unlike human medicine, this exchange transpires in respectful silence, in a world of tacit, clueless tolerance.” I took delight in reading this work, and if you have a well-loved pet and spend any time at the local animal clinic, you probably will too.

First Sentence:
This might seem strange, coming from an Englishman, but sometimes emergency surgery in the middle of the night can play out like a synopsis of a perfect season for the Boston Red Sox.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Trace, by Patricia Cornwell

Trace, by Patricia Cornwell

Cornwell is just going through the motions these days. Blow Fly was bad, but Trace was truly awful. Besides a ridiculous plot and characters that are continually unhappy and unpleasant, the writing is repetitive to the point of boredom. In one chapter, an alcoholic neighbor is described as such: “She has left the station and is halfway to drunk.” A mere two paragraphs later, “She stretches her words the way people do when they’ve left the station and are happily on their way to drunk.” On the next page, the same character is “pronouncing her French extremely well for one almost at her destination of drunk.” That is a lot of metaphor for such a short passage. Bah.

Trace is an ironic name for this book, because there isn’t a trace of enjoyment to be found here. Personalities I’d liked in previous novels were angry shells of themselves, and it had a lackluster plot with so many coincidences and holes it should have been a Murder She Wrote episode. I find it hard to believe that the same author that wrote Postmortem wrote this drivel.

First Sentence:
Yellow bulldozers hack earth and stone in an old city block that has seen more death than most modern wars, and Kay Scarpetta slows her rental SUV almost to a stop.

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