Dr. Haggard's Disease

( 2 )

Overview

In two novels and one short story collection, Patrick McGrath has established himself as the foremost master of the "new gothic." He has been compared by The New York Times to Poe, Wilde, Kafka, and Robert Louis Stevenson and hailed as "an ingenious manipulator of discomfort and suspense." In Dr. Haggard's Disease, he writes his most powerful and universal story to date -- a tale of love both beautiful and bizarre. Dr. Edward Haggard is a tragic figure on a tiny scale. A lonely, pain-racked romantic, he stands at...
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Dr. Haggard's Disease

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Overview

In two novels and one short story collection, Patrick McGrath has established himself as the foremost master of the "new gothic." He has been compared by The New York Times to Poe, Wilde, Kafka, and Robert Louis Stevenson and hailed as "an ingenious manipulator of discomfort and suspense." In Dr. Haggard's Disease, he writes his most powerful and universal story to date -- a tale of love both beautiful and bizarre. Dr. Edward Haggard is a tragic figure on a tiny scale. A lonely, pain-racked romantic, he stands at the window of his house on the edge of a cliff, watching as the clouds of war draw near, and reflecting on the nature of love, death, medicine, war -- but most of all on the wife of the senior pathologist, and the few brief months of bliss they shared. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, a fighter pilot appears in Dr. Haggard's surgery, reawakening memories of the single grand passion of Haggard's life. For this young man is the son of the woman Haggard loved, and as the doctor becomes more and more intrigued by the bizarre changes occurring in his new patient's body, his old passion gives way to a fresh one, a passion altogether odder, and darker, than the first. With the consummate artistry and profound understanding of the frontiers of human experience that he displayed in his previous work, Patrick McGrath brings to his narration of a doomed love affair and in bizarre aftermath an acute erotic intensity portraying a man whose disease is passion -- disease that can exalt a man, but can also destroy him.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An aging doctor retires to a gothic manor to indulge in morphine and mournful reveries about a failed love affair.
Library Journal
McGrath, one of the foremost practitioners of the "new gothic,'' has written a stormy tale of obsession. Set in Britain on the eve of World War II, it involves Edward Haggard, a young doctor in a London hospital, who falls for Fanny Ratcliff, the wife of an older physician. The attraction is mutual, and they begin a brief, passionate affair. After a calamitous run-in with the husband, Haggard leaves London, buying a crumbling seaside mansion and the practice of a retiring doctor. His feelings for the now-deceased Fanny grow to unbearable intensity several years later after a visit by her son, a young fighter pilot, and his obsession takes a bizarre erotic twist. An example of the psychological side of the gothic, this is a haunting portrayal of a man broken by passion. Recommended for fanciers of this genre.
-- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free Public Library, Massacheusettes
Kirkus Reviews
McGrath carries on his winning streak in the short horror novel form (Spider, 1990; The Grotesque, 1989; Blood and Water and Other Tales, 1987). Dr. Haggard's disease is sexual passion, and the story of its ravages is told in flashback as the crippled hero pieces it out to the heroine's son James, an RAF pilot.

It is late-30's London, with WW II looming, and overworked and deeply exhausted young internist Edward Haggard is learning to cut under the tutelage of top surgeon Vincent Cushing and senior pathologist Ratcliff Vaughan. At a party, Haggard receives a silent smile from Vaughan's wife, Fanny, and is at once obsessed by her—as, indeed, she must be with him. Before long they have secret meetings at the Two Eagles pub and many a sexual rendezvous in his digs. McGrath charts the deepening of their adulterous passion in the same fine spirit used by modern masters of obsession, from the Japanese to Nabokov, and while this delights, it also brings on deja vu. As becomes inevitable in the disease of passion, Edward and Fanny's affair forms a boil that fate must lance. Pathologist Ratcliff, smelling of Formalin and human rot when he comes to his wife's bed, plays the mythic emotional icicle until in rage he pushes Edward down a flight of steps, breaking Edward's hip. The hip is bolted together with a metal piece Edward names "Spike," and Spike's pain leads Edward into lasting morphine addiction, costs him his role in surgery, and demotes him to general practice. Then Fanny comes down with nephritis.... Meanwhile, James becomes an angel in Spitfires, and quite literally his dead mothers's embodiment....

An unbearably memorable ending lifts this to classic level while the thin bright nerves of the storyline are padded with magnificent surgical detail, hospital lore, and moods you can rub your finger down.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679752615
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1994
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 191
  • Sales rank: 1,001,016
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2001

    Painful and literate

    Patrick McGrath was a guest on a radio talk show when I luckily tuned in. He was plain-spoken about his writing style, (gothic), and he seemed intelligent. That's all I knew when I ordered Dr.Haggard's Disease. The book is a journey into pain - both emotional and physical. If you haven't felt grief, then don't bother with this book. You won't understand it. But if you have suffered loss - really suffered - be prepared to feel that gripping chill inside your chest again. If Mr. McGrath had not been such a literate and compelling author I would have put the book down after the first sharp pang. I didn't and was rewarded with an achingly skillful story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

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