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Dirty Work: A Novel

Dirty Work: A Novel

2.0 1
by Gabriel Weston

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An informed and arresting debut novel about a young surgeon in crisis, by a writer whose "exactitude of expression is rare and uncanny." (Rachel Cusk)

Nancy Mullion, an obstetrician-gynecologist whose botched surgery has put a patient in a life-threatening coma, must face a medical tribunal to determine if she can continue to practice medicine. Nancy's


An informed and arresting debut novel about a young surgeon in crisis, by a writer whose "exactitude of expression is rare and uncanny." (Rachel Cusk)

Nancy Mullion, an obstetrician-gynecologist whose botched surgery has put a patient in a life-threatening coma, must face a medical tribunal to determine if she can continue to practice medicine. Nancy's fears about both her patient's chances for survival and whether she will be "undoctored" are made palpable to the reader. Throughout four weeks of intense questioning and accusations, this physician directly confronts for the first time her work as an abortion provider—how it helps the lives of others but takes a heavy toll on her own.

Interweaving memories of Nancy's English and American childhood and adolescence, Dirty Work creates an emotionally charged portrait of one woman's life; the telling of seemingly untellable stories sets her free, as it can all women. Gabriel Weston has given us a truly original, courageous, and meaningful novel.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Dirty Work:
"A lot of books are called 'brave,' and they aren't. Dirty Work is."—Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Weston has an unwavering passion for the truth as well as the courage to tell it."—The Telegraph (UK)"

Perfectly measured doses of compassion, respect for human dignity and straight-talking attention to detail....A gripping read."—Observer (UK)"

Making Nancy self-aware allows Weston to explore a doctor's feelings in a way that is nuanced and affecting."—Times (UK)"

In Dirty Work, the weave of past and present, strength of characterization and storytelling, captured my attention and masterfully pulled me through the ethical challenges at the heart of the book. I learned so much about abortion generally, about my own feelings on the subject, and about the complexities of medicine-particularly in those areas where doing the right thing is unimaginably hard."—Louise Aronson, author of A History of the Present Illness and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco"

A medical and moral tour de force."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Kirkus Reviews
A London doctor is summoned beforean ethics board for allegedly botching an abortion in Weston's fiction debut. Dr. Nancy Mullion, a fledglinggynecologist, faces a potentially career-ending hearing before a hospital tribunal.Her patient, the subject of the inquiry, lies comatose in the ICU, connected toa ventilator. The hearing, which acts as a frame of sorts for the story,proceeds in increments, as Nancy, too frantic with guilt to focus on defendingherself, relives the childhood, young adulthood and professional life thatbrought her to this pass. Nothing in her relatively benign early life hasprepared her for this catastrophe. A brief and happy stint in America, someromantic disappointments and grueling surgical training have left her psychemostly unscathed. However, due to social anxiety and a self-confessed inabilityto say no, she's been steered into a specialty that her colleagues view asanathema: performing abortions. Nancy is steadfastly pro-choice, and has had anabortion herself, and she begins to see the hypocrisy of a medical system whichhas marginalized the practitioners who do this "dirty work." As she recognizesthat her unearned status as a pariah and scapegoat has compromised theimpartiality of the doctors who are judging her, she is finally able toconfront what actually happened in that particular operating theater and cometo terms with her conduct. Perhaps out of reluctance to bore or puzzle thelayperson, readers are not told in any detail what transpires at the hearings,and as a result, the question of Nancy's culpability is somewhat blurred. Herambivalence and her anguish over the impossible dilemmas visited upon bothherself and her patients are sharply delineated, however.A cautionary professionalcoming-of-age tale which faces the moral quandary posed by abortion head-on.
Library Journal
Nancy Mullion, a young and talented obstetrician-gynecologist, is in crisis. She has been suspended from her London hospital following the near death of a patient and awaits the outcome of a formal inquiry by a medical panel. The surgery in question was a abortion, and the charge is clinical negligence. Overcome by worry for her patient's survival and concern for her own career, Nancy searches for insight and reasons. She reflects on her life, the path that led her to medical school, and the personal and professional choices she made that brought her to this point. Over four weeks of intense scrutiny, she struggles to assess her own state of mind and to answer honestly the questions put to her by the board-appointed psychiatrist and other panelists. Through this intense introspection, Nancy comes to understand more deeply that there are no comfortable and uncomplicated answers. VERDICT Weston, a British physician and author of the award-winning medical memoir Direct Red, has written a courageous, incisive debut novel that offers a reflective and compassionate view of the medical work and human dimensions surrounding the surgery to end pregnancies. The author traces neutral ground between this subject's hard inflammatory factions and offers a sensitive view of abortion providers who may be themselves conflicted.—Sheila M. Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Gabriel Weston is an ear, nose, and throat surgical specialist. Her memoir, Direct Red: A Surgeon's View of Her Life-or-Death Profession, was named a Best Book of the Year in 2009 by The Economist and The Telegraph, long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award, and received the PEN/Ackerley Prize for Autobiography. She lives in London with her physician husband and their children.

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Dirty Work 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
smitchell More than 1 year ago
Much too short, at 133 pages,for the $13 I paid for the Nook version. It felt like the story was just getting goid when it ended abruptly. I would have liked to see this fleshed out to a full novel.