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The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden…
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The Heart Specialist

by Claire Holden Rothman

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Agnes and her sister are raised by their grandmother. She is fortunate that Miss Skerry, her governess, who shares her passion for learning science and conducting experiments, becomes her advocate and friend. Her determination to study medicine gains her respect. By focusing on the heart she is searching for the truth about her father. She comes to idealize Dr. William Howlett learning he was close to her father. It takes many difficult years for this bright doctor to recognize the truth...finally, but thankfully it is not too late.

A smart, strong read which I definitely enjoyed. ( )
  Bookish59 | Aug 12, 2014 |
3.5-stars, i think.

i loved the premise of this novel -- one of canada's earliest female physicians (in montreal) and her struggles to be allowed an education at medical school. tied in with some family dynamics and school/career fodder (and, at one point, at WWI backdrop) i was hoping for an unputdownable read. the book wasn't quite that. i found the flow of the story to be a bit stilted and clunky/bumpy and the ending (the very end) too pat and easy. but this is a good debut novel and i am interested in reading future books from rothman. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 10, 2013 |
I was slightly disappointed in this book, as it wasn't what I was expecting. I was hoping to have an excellent, strong woman and story about her struggle against the traditional male roles. And while the story did show her struggles, I found Agnes to be weak, and the story became boring and dragged on.

One big issue I have was Agnes. I didn't like her. She wasn't inspiring, she was just a character in the book, who faced many hardships to get her goals. And even then, she doesn't actually reach her true potential. She get's half way and decides that's good enough. She gave up to easy in the book, which I didn't like and I couldn't stand the "daddy issues" subplot. She wasn't a strong women, she seemed to need approval of everyone around her to feel satisfied, and I hated the ending. The last few pages of the book and how it closed bothered me. It turned the book from its main focus, to well, a typical cheesy ending - which was a love story.

Parts of the book were fine, there were times it built up to show her struggles, but that was thinned out, through a lot of filler. The writing was excellent, and the author did her research. I did appreciate the amount of work the author did to make sure it was accurate when talking about the various medical terms. (I didn't check this, but it seems to be researched).

Overall it wasn't at all what I hoped to be and was a disappointing read for me.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Heart Specialist ( )
  bookwormjules | Sep 2, 2012 |
I loved this! What a terrific story. I don't think I usually look for what I would call historical novels but this one was excellent and the detail was so thorough that I could picture just what was happening. The evolving of a woman doctor's life in the midst of male domination was beautifully handled. I honestly took this strictly as a novel and I feel that the author was free to deal with the characters as she wished, even with her mention that the novel was inspired by Montreal's first female physician, Dr. Maude Abbott. ( )
  nyiper | Oct 17, 2011 |
I need to share my personal feelings that I had while reading this book with you. I love reading biographies and also anything to do with medicine. But this book left me with a bad taste in mouth. Somehow I developed a fondness for Dr. Maude Abbott and wanted to protect her even though she has passed away four years after she retired in 1940.

During the part covering Dr. Maude Abbott's childhood, it was so gloomy that I wondered if I could finish reading 'The Heart Specialist'. I peeked in the Afterword Section and the author states that this book was inspired by the life of Dr. Maude Abbott but that the events and people in it are fictional. Somehow this made me mad. Was Dr. Abbott's childhood really so bereft of loving kindness from her adoptive grandmother? So, I set out on the Internet to search for the facts of her life. Dr. Abbott's mother died when Maude was very young and her father abandoned when she was seven months old. As I read the book, I was constantly irritated by the author's omission of a short statement in the book as to which characters were real and which were not. I have seen this done in many books and just took it for granted but this time I really felt it missing. I felt is a disservice to the Dr. Maude Abbott.

Ok, now that is off my chest, I can continue. The first part of the book concerns her childhood and it and it really drags on. Did Dr. Maude Abbot truly have no one on her side besides her younger sister? Was her desire to see the father who abandoned his daughters a result of a lack of warmth for the grandmother? There is some mystery as to why the father left and some connections to him of some very dark deed. I did not enjoy the first part of the book; I wanted it to be over. But I decided to stick it out in hopes that Maude’s life would get better. And it did, from page 55; the story finally picks up some speed and doesn't seem as dark.

One thing that I really liked about this book was that the author shows with the story the true motivations for Dr. Abbott's rise to fame in Europe and eventually in her home country of Canada. We learn that McGill University was like many in North America with their expectations of what women were capable of doing in medicine and created barriers against women entering the medical profession that did not exist for men.

I am glad that I read this book, not because I enjoyed it so much as I liked learning about this pioneer in medical science and women’s rights to an education. I hope that more books are written about these hidden stars of medicine. I wished for a listing of her accomplishments. That would have been a welcome addition to the back of the book.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in medical history and who has the patience to keep reading after the gloomy beginning.

I received this book as a part of the Amazon Vine Program and but no part of my review was influenced by that. ( )
  Carolee888 | Jul 6, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Claire Holden Rothman's historical novel gets its facts right and is well written, but it never crosses over into true fiction
added by yagoder | editGlove & Mail, Emma Donoghue (May 25, 2009)
 
The Heart Specialist, Claire Holden's first novel, is a book to curl up with on rainy evenings... A highly readable work of historical fiction....
added by vancouverdeb | editMontreal Review of Books
 
"Told with precision, grace, and passion, The Heart Specialist is a beautiful, moving, utterly captivating novel about a woman who becomes Montreal’s first female doctor. The writing is striking, the emotion immediate, the medical detail fascinating, and the story compelling from the first page to the last. Claire Holden Rothman deserves a wide audience for this astounding literary achievement."
 
The Heart Specialist is a fascinating novel that conveys both a sense of history and of the timelessness of human emotions. That Rothman also demonstrates the damage that prejudice can do, and the power of human spirit in overcoming it, is simply an added bonus.
added by vancouverdeb | editQuill and Quire
 
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Epigraph
Cardiac anomalies may be divided, according to etiology, into two main groups:those due to arrest of growth at an early stage, before the different parts of the heart have been entirely formed, and those produced in the more fully developed heart by fetal disease. - Maude Abbot," Congenital Cardiac Disease," in William Osler's System of Medicine
Still the heart doth need a language, Still doth the old instinct bring back the old names. - Friedrich Schiller, Piccolomini
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For Aurthur Holden
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My first memory of my father is of his face floating above me and weeping.
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from Amazon ca : Quill & Quire
Claire Holden Rothman’s first novel is loosely inspired by the life of Dr. Maude Abbot (1869-1940), one of Montreal’s first female doctors. Rothman’s narrator is Agnes White, a plain girl with exceptional intelligence. After her father, a disgraced physician, disappears, Agnes and her sister are raised by their grandmother. Luckily, their governess, Miss Skerry, appreciates and encourages Agnes’s interest in science. Undaunted by a male-dominated society, Agnes vows to study at McGill and become a doctor like her beloved father. That she manages to do so is a testament to her strong will and to that of the Montreal matrons who raise money to assist the young woman. Rothman realistically depicts Agnes’s struggle by showing both her tenacity and her self-doubt, and she succeeds in creating a compelling, believable, and immensely sympathetic main character. In addition, Rothman captures a sense of the era’s class distinctions through the book’s language, which is slightly formal. Agnes’s prime area of study is the human heart, which was also her father’s specialty. The physical details of the human heart are juxtaposed with a study of love – the figurative heart – which is something Agnes is far less talented at understanding. Rothman’s narrative skill allows readers to comprehend Agnes’s own heart better than she does. The Heart Specialist is a fascinating novel that conveys both a sense of history and of the timelessness of human emotions. That Rothman also demonstrates the damage that prejudice can do, and the power of the human spirit in overcoming it, is simply an added bonus.
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Set in Quebec at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the story of Agnes White, a lonely orphaned girl fascinated by the "wrong" things--microscopes, dissections, and anatomy instead of more ladylike interests--who rises to the status of one of the world's most celebrated pioneering women doctors. Not only does she break through patriarchal academic barriers; she masters the science of the human heart, becoming a scholar of international fame, all in a place and time inimical to intelligent women. Inspired by the career of Maude Abbott, one of Canada's first female physicians.… (more)

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