Breaking & Mending by Joanna Cannon caught me completely off guard.
This little book was meant to be a kind of filler read, an inbetween, a papery breather before a deeper dive into the book sea – but it became so much more.
I know that I overuse this word when it comes to books, but this one deserves it…
It was b.e.a.utiful.
It’s 158 pages of gut-wrenching honesty that spans life and death and all the messiness between. It’s about so much more than the author’s journey to become a doctor (although that would be more than enough) – it’s about love, loss, learning, what it feels like to realise a dream, what it feels like to sleepwalk into a waking nightmare, unsustainable pressures, broken working environments, the NHS, burnout, and the process of building yourself back up again.
‘Breaking is accumulative. We collect small episodes of despair and unhappiness, our own Kodak moments, and we carry them with us until their weight becomes too much to bear and we fracture under the burden. Mending is the same. The more often we witness small moments of compassion, the more humanity we see; and the more likely we are to be able to mend ourselves and the quicker we are to heal.’
It’s filled with pain and exhaustion and despair, but it’s filled with happiness and hope and wonder too.
I was not expecting to love this book.
I was not expecting it to make me feel angry, and upset, and like I needed to paint a placard and find a protest march.
I was not expecting to laugh and chuckle and wonder at the weirdness of humanity.
But I should have believed the title, because This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay made me feel all of those things.
It’s a brilliant, funny, and poignant insight into his six years as a junior doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology that will make you hurt. It’ll make you hurt with sadness and amusement and fury. And – though maybe this is just because I’m a woman – it’ll make you hurt with horror.
I mean, jeez. Childbirth sounds like an absolute warzone.
All I can really say is: do not read this book if you’re pregnant. Seriously, truly. I genuinely found myself halfway through reading it trying to understand how we’ve survived long enough as a species to invent modern medicine.
If, however, you’re not pregnant, have easy access to placard-making craft materials and a protest march, and want to marvel at the strange ideas people get into their heads (and their… erm, I’m just going to leave that bit blank)?
Well, I can’t recommend it highly enough.