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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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14015131,196 (3.66)34

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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I put it down after about 30 pages. Interesting subject, but I didn't enjoy the choppy character development...the author seemed to leave a setting just as it was being developed...maybe I'll pick it up another time.. ( )
  Jandrew74 | May 26, 2019 |
I read this for a book club. While I was reading, I would get absorbed in the story, but after putting it down, I was always reluctant to pick it back up again. The main character is Agnes, who was born in Montreal in 1869, and wants to be a surgeon. She is brilliant, but socially awkward, and experiences a lot of rejection and hypocrisy. Agnes' first person narration means that the motivations of other characters are filtered through her own social naïveté, and the reader is credited with the intelligence to infer what is really happening. The Prelude and first chapter take place in January, of 1874 and 1882 respectively, which sets a bleak tone that carries through the rest of the book. It ends in January 1919, shortly after the end of World War I. I found the ending very satisfying. The book is bleaker than I really like, but I appreciated the quality of the writing.
  SylviaC | Jul 24, 2016 |
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. ( )
  Booktrovert | Apr 10, 2013 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (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)
 
"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, 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
 
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.

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