BOOK REVIEW: JOANNA CANNON – BREAKING & MENDING

Today, it’s another review and a review of a book that I’m still thinking about: Breaking and Mending by Joanna Cannon.

Medical memoirs have been bestsellers over the past couple of years and while I’m the sort of person who can’t watch Holby City for even five minutes without feeling sick, I love a good medical memoir. Especially this one. But first, what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

“A few years ago, I found myself in A&E.

I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat… but I knew I had to carry on.

Because I wasn’t the patient. I was the doctor.”

In this powerful memoir, Joanna Cannon tells her story as a junior doctor in visceral, heart-rending snapshots.

We walk with her through the wards, facing extraordinary and daunting moments: from attending her first post-mortem, sitting with a patient through their final moments, to learning the power of a well- or badly chosen word. These moments, and the small sustaining acts of kindness and connection that punctuate hospital life, teach her that emotional care and mental health can be just as critical as restoring a heartbeat.

In a profession where weakness remains a taboo, this moving, beautifully written book brings to life the vivid, human stories of doctors and patients – and shows us why we need to take better care of those who care for us.

I love Joanna Cannon and her writing; I especially loved her previous novel, Three Things About Elsie. I find her writing to be warming, funny, kind, emotional but all about the human condition and her writing is crystal clear, strong and holds your attention and that’s the same case with this memoir. I’ve read a few medical memoirs but none have had an impact on me as much as this one. This is a short book and the chapters are relatively short, only a couple of pages, but every word counts and it will move you, make you think, make you aware. Just like in her novels, Cannon writes beautifully and it feels as if you’re having a conversation with her about her experience as a junior doctor, and it’s full of compassion and warmth. You are literally right there with her in the car park, on the wards – it’s just a brilliant book that will make you think, long after reading it. Also, how stunning is that cover?!

As soon as the book came in the post, I thought I’d just read the first chapter but then the first chapter became chapter six and before I know it, I’ve finished it in one afternoon. There were moments where I found it really emotional, especially with her stories about patients and their families. As I was reading it, I found it incredibly stimulating. It’s a book that while it’s so short and stops you in your tracks, you can’t stop turning the page. I’ve loved the writing so much, I couldn’t stop folding page after page as I was in awe of her writing. For example:

I am very often asked about the similarities between being a doctor and being an author, and the answer is very simple. Writing always rests on a narrative, on hearing a voice, and it’s exactly the same with medicine – because medicine is all about people, and people are made out of stories.

For someone who doesn’t like anything to do with medicine or hospitals, or Holby City, I couldn’t get enough off this book. It gets into your skin and Cannon writes so beautifully about burn out and the importance of mental health, especially with junior doctors. It’s a masterpiece that I know I’ll go back to again and again. Just like her novels, Cannon is a brilliant writer that makes you feel every emotion and every word. If you’re looking for a new medical memoir or just a great book, I can’t recommend this enough. Perfect Christmas stocking filler for a junior doctor in your life, or well, anyone, really. Because as Cannon writes, we are all made out of stories. And I loved reading hers.

Breaking & Mending is out now! Have you read it? What did you think? Are you a fan of a medical memoir? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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