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The Physician by Noah Gordon

The Physician (original 1986; edition 2012)

by Noah Gordon

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2,099393,141 (4.19)58
Title:The Physician
Authors:Noah Gordon
Info:Barcelona Editions (2012), Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Physician by Noah Gordon (1986)

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English (19)  Spanish (10)  German (5)  Catalan (3)  Italian (1)  Galician (1)  All (39)
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"But it came to seem that Kilmarnock (in Scotland) had always been his life, and that what had happened before was a tale he had heard told around the fire when the wind blew cold."

My favorite line from this fascinating, historical novel set in Saxon England and 11th-century Persia. Bob Cole is orphaned in London and apprenticed to a barber surgeon. As he grows to manhood, he wants to study more about medicine and learns of a legendary physician teaching at a Persian University where Christian students are forbidden. The adventure includes not only a dangerous journey, but a risky impersonation as he wins the Shah's favor, falls in love and becomes a well-regarded man of medicine.
The research Gordon has done is formidable, covering medieval medicine, the settings in both Britain and Persia, and in addition the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions of the time. Compelling, entertaining and informative, I highly recommend it. This book has been around for decades and I just discovered it, but stories never grow old.
( )
  CindaMac | Mar 26, 2017 |
Young boy in 11th cent London is apprenticed to a barber who recognizes the boy's gift for healing. Eventually the child grows up and seeks the education he needs to be a physician. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
It is no secret I adore historical fiction. It is also no secret I become impatient with historical fiction which isn't particularly well-researched and riddled with modern intrusions and perspectives.

Unfortunately, such is the case with Noah Gordon's first book in his Cole Family Trilogy.

The story follows a young man's need to find gainful employment in medieval England, a search which lands him with a charlatan medic who operates an itinerant snake oil show. There is something of the paranormal in Gordon's story, an ability the protagonist develops whereby he is able to feel the health of imminent death of a patient.

When his employer dies, he takes it upon himself to travel to Persia, disguised as a Jew, in order to study with a physician purported to be the best in the world.

While a consumable read, for this reader the story just didn't hang together, primarily because there were so many plausibility questions, outright material culture errors, and stereotyped gender and cultural points.

Altogether disappointing, and not enough interest to want to continue with the series. Your mileage may vary. ( )
  fiverivers | Dec 11, 2015 |
The Physician by Noah Gordon; (4 1/2*)

Gordon takes the reader back to the 11th century and recounts the story of Rob Cole who, as a young boy, sees the life slip away from both his parents. As a result he and his younger siblings are separated and he has to take care of himself at a very youthful age. He is apprenticed to a barber, who in those days served as a combination entertainer/barber/surgeon. Barber's knowledge is scant but he shares it with the young boy. Rob discovers that he has an uncanny gift of placing his hand on a patient's chest or taking his hand and knowing if the patient will live or die. This gift burns within him and motivates him to become a real physician.
He learns that the best place to study the practice of medicine is in Persia, but religious differences and sheer distance make it seem like an impossible dream to study there. Through a variety of circumstances, one being masqarading as a Jew,he is able to travel to Persia and petition to become a student. [[Gordon]]'s tale continues through Rob's life and gives a fascinating background into the religious and political life of the times as well as the infancy of the science of medicine. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it ( )
  rainpebble | Jul 20, 2015 |
The Physician by Noah Gordon is set in the eleventh century and follows the life of Rob Cole, whose parents die right at the beginning of the novel. Trying to find a place, Rob becomes the apprentice of a barber-surgeon in London and learns to entertain crowds with magic tricks and juggling on the one hand, and curing minor illnesses on the other hand. Intrigued by the latter and driven by the death of his mother, he decides that he wants to dedicate his life to medicine so as to be able to understand and cure illnesses. During his apprenticeship with the barber-surgeon, Rob soon discovers that he has a gift. He is able to tell if a person is going to die by taking their hands into his own. As he sees the limitations of being a barber-surgeon, a trade that is not regarded very highly, the protagonist strives to become a physician. When he hears about a medical school in the far away Persia, Rob sets out on a long and hard journey. Seeing that being Christian makes his life harder, Rob Cole decides to turn into the Jew Jesse ben Benjamin, which eases things at the beginning but also has its disadvantages when he finally arrives in Persia. Once there, Rob manages to get accepted for the training as a physician. As part of his training he becomes acquainted with the Shah of Persia, who develops a special relationship with him that influences great parts of Rob's life in Persia. The protagonist spends a very important period of his life in the eastern world, only to return to London after a several years.

While the protagonist's life is marked by hardships and obstacles, there is also the component of finding the love of his life and eventually happiness. On his journey to Persia, Rob meets his later wife Mary, a Scottish woman traveling with her father in order to buy Turkish sheep. Since Mary and Rob have different destinations, they leave each other shortly after having fallen in love with each other. As fate would have it, they meet again in Persia and Mary becomes Rob's wife and they have children. Having to flee from their home in Persia, they eventually return to London where they part ways again, only to be finally reunited in Mary's Scottish home.

One integral issue in this novel is religion. Rob, the protagonist is Christian throughout his life. However, on his journey to Persia he learns how to behave like a Jew. As part of his training to become a physician he also has to study the teachings of the Quran, which gives him insight into another different religion. While one might be tempted to say that Rob only pretends to have a different faith in order to achieve his goal of becoming a physician, there is also a part in him that is actually very interested in Islam and Judaism. Throughout the novel, Rob compares the different religions, but not in a judgmental way. He is interested in the different commandments and parts of scripture and sees benefits in each of the three religions. This knowledge makes him become a very open-minded character and serves him well in his life. Generally, Rob is presented as a very curious person who takes interest in many things, especially in medicine and religion. Only when science and religion oppose each other in the matter of dissecting human bodies, Rob chooses to further scientific knowledge at the cost of breaking religious rules. The dichotomy of being a physician while at the same time having a profound knowledge of several faiths spices up the plot of The Physician.

On the whole, I liked the exploration of differences between the western and the eastern world. While I enjoyed reading the novel a lot, I have, however, never really felt the urge to devour it. Summing up my reading experience, I have to say that although The Physician was not a real page-turner for me, it was quite an interesting read because of the themes that are explored. 4 stars. ( )
2 vote OscarWilde87 | Jun 28, 2015 |
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Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.
--Ecclesiastes 12:13
I will give thanks unto Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
--Psamls 139:14
As to the dead, God will raise them up.
--Qu'ran, S. 6:36
They that be whole need not a physician. But they that are sick.
--Matthew 9:12
With all my love for Nina, who gave me Lorraine
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These were Rob J.'s last safe and secure moments of blessed innocence, but in his ignorance he considered it hardship to be forced to remain near his father's house with his brothers and his sister.
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Devetogodišnji Robert Jeremy Cole moći će, kad odraste, za sebe reći da je imao sreće u nesreći. Kad su mu 1021. godine umrli roditelji a braća i sestra razdijeljeni drugim obiteljima i skrbnicima, on je uspio izbjeći sudbinu da bude prodan u roblje i otisnuo se u svijet. Henry Croft bio je čovjek koji se bavio liječenjem najsiromašnijih i onih koji je svojim sitnim prevarama pokušavao preživjeti. Kad primi Roba u svoje društvo počet će ga podučavati najprimitivnijim medicinskim metodama toga vremena i tako zainteresirati za liječenje bolesnika... Opsežni povijesni roman Iscjelitelj prvi je dio tzv. liječničke trilogije koja prati članove obitelji Cole koji se, svaki u svom vremenu, suoćavaju s dvojbama koje donosi medicina tog doba.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0751503894, Paperback)

In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sick—and discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healing—a gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of journey to Persia, to its Arab universities where he would undertake a transformation that would shape his destiny forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:48 -0400)

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Set against the superstition and splendour of the 11th century, The Physician is the story of one man's unbeatable spirit - and one woman's undying love.

(summary from another edition)

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