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The Physician by Noah Gordon
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The Physician (original 1986; edition 2012)

by Noah Gordon

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1,896353,618 (4.19)51
Member:asena
Title:The Physician
Authors:Noah Gordon
Info:Barcelona Editions (2012), Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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The Physician by Noah Gordon (1986)

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English (16)  Spanish (9)  German (5)  Catalan (3)  Italian (1)  Galician (1)  All languages (35)
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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 |
Rob Cole is a young boy who holds the strong and powerful dream of studying medicine and travels across Europe facing several difficulties in his journey to become the phyisician he always dreamt of. ( )
  MohammedLR | Mar 24, 2015 |
This was a very good story of an orphan, Rob Cole, in 11th century England. He apprentices with a barber-surgeon, Barber, travelling all over England. He feels there is more than what Barber can teach him and heeds the call to be a physician after he KNOWS by just holding a sick person's hands whether they'll die soon or not. He wants to study with Avicenna, the famous medieval Persian physician; this obsession is so overwhelming, he makes the long journey to Persia--through France, Germany, Bohemia, Hungary--finally reaching Persia, even assuming the identity of a Jew, as Christians are not permitted to study there. He attains the status of hakim [physician] and the book follows his Persian adventures, even into India. He and his wife, the red-haired Scotswoman, Mary, return to the land of his birth, and finally to Scotland, her homeland.

I read the whole 600+ pages in one afternoon; the novel was so fascinating. The pages flew by. However good the story and writing were, I felt it fell short on history; so don't expect to learn much. The author even says as much in his acknowledgments: "it should be understood this is a work of the imagination, not a slice of history." I don't know if the author may have been completely accurate on Jewish and Muslim customs of that period. Characterization was well done; I feel Rob was an amalgamation of earnest and serious physicians and some of their discoveries through the years. One strong point I liked was the theme of religious tolerance. And we read of instances of its dark face: intolerance of those with other beliefs and customs. ( )
  janerawoof | Jul 13, 2014 |
An amazingly good read ... if I could give it more stars than 5, I would. The book is a long one and you follow Robert Cole as he starts as a young orphaned boy, apprenticed to Barber (a barber-surgeon) then on a journey to Persia to really learn the craft of being a Physician and then returning back to Britain with 2 children and a red headed Scot woman that he met on his journeys.

Don't expect wild action in this book, the character development is slow but that is the beauty of the book...you live the scenes as though you are there. The flow of the book is smooth and steady. I enjoyed especially his life as a barber-surgeon and later as a student in the Persian medical University but really there was little dead time in the read.

Highly recommended....two thumbs up with vigour :) ( )
  Lynxear | Jun 13, 2014 |
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
With all my love for Nina, who gave me Lorraine
First words
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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Book description
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)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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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