A Young Doctor’s Notebook – by Mikhail Bulgakov – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Russia)

Sometimes you pick up a classic from a famous writer from long ago and immediately understand why the book has stood the test of time. With this one, NOT so much. Awarded two stars on Goodreads.

youngdoctorRecently graduated from medical school, Dr. Bulgakov (no doubt writing at least in part from personal experience) gets assigned to a hospital in a remote Russian village, feeling unprepared to practice medicine. Slowly he learns his trade through interactions with hundreds of local peasants, full of superstition and misinformation, but who slowly come to trust his skill.

Dr. B eventually develops confidence in his own abilities and is transferred to a larger hospital. There he hears that his successor in the village is ill and eventually Dr. B takes possession of the successor’s diary, where he learns the true cause of the successor’s illness.

While the first part of this short book paints a vivid picture of rural life in pre-revolutionary Russia and the experience of an experienced country doctor establishing life amid desolation, it goes downhill from there. In fact, it becomes downright disjointed. The diary of the doctor’s successor becomes the final portion of the novel and it is not skillfully integrated. If you’re interested in this author, then Bulgakov’s book, The Master and Margarita, is a much better bet.

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