The Good Doctor

the-good-doctorby Damon Galgut

Taut, spare, and compellingly readable, The Good Doctor is a brilliant literary high-wire act short enough to be devoured in one or two sittings. When Laurence Waters arrives at the small rural hospital in a South African homeland where Frank works, Frank is immediately suspicious. Everything about Laurence grates on Frank, from his smoking in their shared room, to his unfamiliar optimism about what the doctors can truly accomplish among the local population—but Laurence seems oblivious, immediately and repeatedly declaring Frank his friend despite the other’s indifference. Frank originally came to the hospital to get his bearings after his wife left him for his best friend—but denial of the higher-level post he was promised when he came, and the disillusionment of working at a completely ineffectual hospital (it’s always deserted, an entire wing closed off and gradually being looted of any reusable equipment lacks basic supplies), has hardened him into cynical apathy—which makes Laurence’s optimism all the more irritating… (Source: Amazon)

Like most elements of this slim, absorbing novel set in post-apartheid South Africa, the title is ambiguous. The narrator, Frank, is a doctor, but, to judge from our first impression, not a good one. After the collapse of his marriage, he has retreated to a hospital in a rural backwater. His uneventful existence is disturbed by the arrival of Laurence, a young doctor eager to help the poor black inhabitants of the surrounding villages. The two men develop an uneasy friendship; Frank is both repelled and fascinated by this younger version of himself.

The novel shrewdly introduces thriller-like devices—a secret mistress, a male nurse with underworld ties—that put the two doctors to the test. In spare, declarative prose, Galgut spins a brisk and bracing story, but he’s also in pursuit of something murkier: the double-edged nature of doing good in a land where “the past has only just happened.” (Source: The New Yorker)

About the Author

Damon Galgut was born in Pretoria in 1963. He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season, when he was seventeen.

His other books include Small Circle of Beings, The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs, The Quarry, and The Impostor. The Good Doctor, published in 2003, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Dublin/IMPAC Award and was published in eighteen countries.

Damon Galgut lives in Cape Town. (Source: Man Booker website)

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