This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diary of a Junior Doctor – Adam Kay

I had been waiting to read This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diary of a Junior Doctor  for a long time. Pretty much every blogger and Instagrammer has been singing its praises since it came out. I’ve always been fascinated by the experiences of NHS doctors and nurses, and have watched One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours in A&E for as long as I can remember. I intended to continue my habit on reading real paper books with this title, but no shop I went into had it- I’m unsure whether this was because I was frantically checking every supermarket around me, or if everyone in South East London was as desperate to get their hands on the diary as I was. Anyway, I gave in and bought the Kindle book, deciding that reading on a kindle would be worth it.

I was so right. Except I wish I could’ve added post-it notes and bookmarks on my favourite pages- the Kindle highlights and bookmarks just aren’t the same. Kay’s voice was just brilliant. I wonder if his frank, matter-of-fact expression was a necessity for dealing with the traumas of junior doctor life, rather than a purposeful writing style. Of course, you hear anecdotes about the problem patients that NHS staff members encounter, but some of Adam’s stories were something else.

His story (not this book, but his experiences) had me cringing, for both Adam and his patients, and laughing out loud in equal measures. In fact, I think London commuters weren’t used to having someone quite so happy on their journey into work on a Monday morning. I couldn’t wait to share my favourite parts of the story with my friends, urging them to buy a copy for themselves. It was really that good.

Of course, the humour doesn’t overshadow the invasive nature of this experience as a junior doctor, working ungodly hours for pathetic pay and having life plans completely turned upside down. Invasive to the point that a Saturday night out with friends doesn’t necessarily mean a night off work; that the end of a twelve-hour shift doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going home. In fact, the final diary entry encapsulated the intensity of junior doctor life and, if you weren’t thinking it before and during you were reading the book, brought the intensity of junior doctor life to the forefront, and hammers home the message that we must be grateful for all that NHS staff do.

The diary format of This is Going to Hurt made it incredibly easy to read, and I even found myself reading it as I was walking along. I knew there wasn’t necessarily going to be a resolution or a narrative arc, but I just couldn’t get enough of the way Kay told his story.

I’ve told just about everyone who would listen (and even those who didn’t care) about This is Going to Hurt and how they absolutely must read it – and I’m urging you to do the same. Even if you aren’t into books or reading, this is just a perfect picture of how hard NHS staff work to keep us ticking over. It makes you realise that, while A&E waiting times might be increasing and you might have to wait longer for your doctors appointment, this is almost never the your doctor’s fault. They’re moving from patient to patient and trauma to trauma without a moment’s hesitation. You should read this book because it will make you feel grateful, humbled and respectful.

The Break- Marian Keyes

I’m all aboard the I-hate-kindles train and truly believe you can’t be a proper physical book, but there’s no denying their convenience. Especially when you read as fast as I do and you’re going on holiday- packing seven books in hand luggage just isn’t really doable. But I wasn’t going on holiday this week. In fact, last weekend I didn’t go anywhere, so I decided I would give into my craving of a proper book- with actual pages!

I really  wasn’t up for venturing any further from my house than the local park, so my book-purchasing locations were limited to my local Tesco.  I had actually gone with the intention of buying another book (you’ll read about that next week!) but they didn’t have it. Determined to go ahead with my plans of reading in the park, I decided the selection would have to do. I saw The Break, and remembered hearing about it on Dolly Alderton’s podcast Love Stories when she interviewed Marian herself.  Now, I trust pretty much anything Dolly likes, so I was more than happy to pick it up.

It was clear from the very start that Keyes just gets people. I instantly knew the characters and could hear their voices and see their faces from the moment I started reading.  This familiarity meant I immediately invested in them. I was instantly defensive of Amy, and the flashbacks to her former life only intensified my empathy. It was very apparent that she didn’t really have her life together, but she got by perfectly well, boosted by the strength she had gained along her journey through life. I liked this about her; she was relatable and imperfect, like all the best characters.

What Keyes does so well is portraying human nature, showing that feelings change and so do people- especially when their husbands announce that they’re leaving for six months. This meant that I wasn’t Amy’s biggest fan for the entirety of the narrative. Yes, I understood that she was doing the best with what she had given the circumstances– and there’s no denying the hardships she goes through with Neeve and Sofie– but, probably because I was rooting for her and Hugh to work, I got incredibly frustrated with her at times. Even when she was at her happiest- or so she thought.

I found myself willing the traffic to just be a little worse, or wishing my lunch break would last just a little bit longer, just so I could read a few more pages. I had a feeling everything would sort itself out, but I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to happen. And each time I thought I had figured out how it would unfold, another speed bump appeared and delayed my expectations.

For the most part, I found The Break highly amusing – the way Keyes captures how families interact is second to none, and actually reminded me a little of my own family. Amy’s father is a particularly funny character. However, I also had my fair share of tears- especially towards the end of the narrative, which certainly distracted from the sweltering conditions on the bus journey home. It was the first time in a while a book had made me feel that much, and I really loved it.

The ending, though not 100% conclusive, left me satisfied- which doesn’t happen often (do I just have really high standards?). I would absolutely recommend The Break to anyone who just wants a book they can get into; a narrative that they can invest in. Go read it!