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Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain by…

Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain

by Kirsten Menger-Anderson

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9216131,245 (3.33)14
  1. 00
    Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family by Shelley Emling (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Marie Curie's work with radium inspired the radium supplement fad of the 1920's. In one of the stories in Menger-Anderson's collection, a woman takes radium supplements in hopes that they will help her infertility.
  2. 00
    The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys (starfishian)
  3. 00
    Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories by Vincent Lam (starfishian)

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A lovely collection of interconnected short stories that center around a multi-genenerational family of doctors living in New York City. The stories are presented in chronological order: the first is set in 1664, the last in 2006. Many of the stories use a now-outdated treatment as a set-piece (mesmerism, phrenology, lobotomies, radium cures, silicone breast implants). However, they are so well-written and character-centered that the device (however repeated) doesn't feel over-used. Overall, the beautiful language and tight complexity of these stories make this a collection worth reading. ( )
  pursuitofsanity | Jan 3, 2017 |
What an interesting book!

The premise is smartly done: A doctor in the 1600s, just after the middle ages, starts the book with his story, then progresses very nicely through the generations of his family tree ... doctor after doctor after doctor. The chapters read as short stories, and indeed, some were published separately in various publications apart from appearing in this book.

Not all of the stories center around the doctor. Some center around how the doctor is treating the main character. There is talk of bleeding someone as a cure, drinking a tincture to become pregnant, shock therapy, a very early lobotomy, and the move away from silicone breast implants. The stories follow the latest in medical procedure and technology, ending in the year 2006. And not all treat physical ailments. The science of phrenology is examined, as is "hysteria" and retardation.

Very compelling, very clever, nice writing and extremely fluid, giving the single thread that weaves through the book. Highly recommended for a different sort of reading experience! ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Being a collection of short stories which have been cobbled together to resemble a novel and which describe moments in the lives of the descendants of a Nieuw Amsterdam quack down through the centuries till to-day. The family line, at least those members described, consists entirely of individuals who make a living practicing on the outer fringes of medical respectability. It is, of course, not particularly easy to believe in a premise which involves 350-some years of a family all involved in the same subprofession, and staying in the same city, but that's why they call it fiction, I suppose. Although this is a fascinating premise, it may have sounded better in theory than execution. Most of the stories are mildly interesting, but hardly page-turners (contrary to the over-enthusiastic blurbs, written by individuals who clearly are very easily impressed). The potential for the generations lapping over into each other's stories is not realized very often; if said characters recur, it is mostly as brief memories who don't affect the action. This book, for its merits, seems mostly to me to represent a missed opportunity. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Dec 9, 2013 |
This book has a unique approach to following a family through the generations, with each chapter dedicated to a small piece of one generation. This family of doctors offers plenty of medical quackery, mental health issues, and family drama, but only a snapshot at a time.

Unfortunately, some of the chapters are less interesting than others, especially towards the end, and sometimes the characters felt a bit flat as well. The writing is mostly well-done, but I wanted a bit more, maybe focusing on fewer generations and going in a bit deeper. ( )
  digitalmaven | Jun 9, 2013 |
Couldn't get into it. ( )
  picardyrose | Oct 3, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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"In 1664, Doctor Olaf van Schuler fled the Old World and arrived in New Amsterdam with his lunatic mother, two bags of medical implements, and a carefully guarded book of his own medicines. He was the first of what would become a long line of peculiar physicians. Among them, a physician who believes in spontaneous combustion; a mysterious doctor who seeks to heal people by using animal magnetism; a female phrenologist with a flair for analyzing character; and a surgeon who, as a last resort, performs a lobotomy on his own sister. Plagued by madness and guided by an intense desire to cure human affliction, each generation of this unusual family is caught up in the science of its day. As they make their way in the world, New York City, too, evolves - from the dark and gritty town of the seventeenth century to the towering, frenetic metropolis of today."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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