BECOMING A DOCTOR – BY HLONI BOOKHOLANE

Reviewed by Petros Abraham

 

I looked forward to laying my eyes and hands on this book. I browsed through it the very hour it was delivered to my door. I put it away shortly after. It was a while before I picked it up again, I procrastinated because I was ever-so-slightly disappointed.  Despite the few grammatical errors that usually enough to put me off altogether, I read on. I don’t usually read Foreword, if I do, I leave it for last but for some reason I read it first this time around, something about it piqued my interest, just as well because the last paragraph encourages the reader to, “read this book with a generosity of spirit, contextualising the reflections by understanding that the author is developing.” That’s exactly what I did. My other issue with this book is that it is very much ‘me, myself, my UCT and I.’ I strongly feel that even though this is the author’s journey, they should have researched a bit wider on the subject instead of focusing only on one institution, this for me smacks of hastiness and laziness. Additionally, the author mentions a long list of friends, most of whom are also medical students or professionals but there is no sharing of their views or experiences on the subject of ‘becoming a doctor.’ In the end, the narrowing of the scope to the author’s experience at one or two institutions leaves the reader wanting. A more appropriate title for the book I; ‘My journey of becoming a doctor at UCT’.

On the bright side, the book is actually a good read. The author writes authentically, openly and frankly for someone so young and writing for the first time. The fact that they managed to write whilst studying must be applauded. The reader needs to accept that the book is written from the author’s perspective and not from a general known facts perspectives: they put across their views and opinions based only on their experience. Certain medical terms are explained thoroughly, if not over-emphasised, but all in all it makes reading easy. They do not consider themselves an expert in everything, they acknowledge being a junior doctor but share their knowledge nevertheless which does have a downside because their opinions overshadow facts and detail in topics where the reader might have special interest, for instance the subject of mental health. Granted, the book is about being a general practitioner as opposed to being a specialist, but the temptation to want more out of it will be there and the resultant frustration. The author’s audacity to speak their mind is also something spell-bounding and fresh. South Africa as a young democracy needs this kind of boldness.

 

Unfortunately, whilst I commend the author for the effort and energy put into this book, overall it was not my favourite read for the reasons mentioned especially that of the author coming across in a self-indulgent manner. Also the book is written in ‘modern-day’ English. It is also full of expletives and for this reason I would not recommend it to young or underage readers, the very audience to whom it should appeal. There are also words, terms and phrases that seem to be thrown in for the sake of it – sometimes simple language is the best way to communicate one’s message. There are other issues such as the digressing and drifting off the point, repetition, and there are too many unnecessary footnotes.

 

Whilst my review or critique may seem too negative, it should be understood and accepted that even doctors are infallible and that this review is intended to be constructive and outlines issues that the author needs to be mindful of and should address in their next book especially on such an important subject as medicine. I certainly do recommend the book, it is not for sensitive readers and I caution potential readers to adjust their expectations accordingly.

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