The heart specialist : a novel /

Set in Quebec at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the story of Agnes White, a lonely orphaned girl fascinated by the "wrong" things--microscopes, dissections, and anatomy instead of more ladylike interests--who rises to the status of one of the world's most celebrated pioneering...

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Main Author: Rothman, Claire, 1958-
Format: Book
Published:New York : Soho Press, c2011.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Rothman, the author of two story collections (Salad Days and Black Tulips), movingly depicts the life and career of Agnes White, inspired by real-life doctor Maude Abbott (1869---1940), one of Canada's first female doctors, in her brilliant first novel. When Agnes Bourret is four years old, her father, an eminent Montreal physician who teaches at McGill University, abandons his family in the wake of a scandal and disappears. Agnes is adopted by her grandmother, who changes her last name to White. In thrall to her father's memory, Agnes later turns to Dr. William Howlett, who becomes her mentor, as her father was once Howlett's. After entering medical school in 1890, Agnes earns her M.D., but finds little acceptance among her male colleagues. Agnes's heroic journey takes her through the cataclysmic events of WWI and the 1918 influenza outbreak, which ironically opens greater opportunities for her. Rothman's heartbreaking portrait of this trailblazer will long linger with the reader. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Although Rothman's novel is a work of fiction, the author's inspiration for the title character is based on cardiologist Maude Abbott, one of Canada's first female physicians.The focus is on Agnes White,neAgns Bourret, whose father was a physician of note until his career was ruined by the accusation that he had murdered his disabled sister. He leaves when Agnes is four years old and his wife pregnant with Agnes' sister Laure, and it never becomes clear, even when Agnes reunites with him some 44 years later, whether he's guilty of the crime or not (she suspects he is). A precocious child, Agnes prefers spending time dissecting squirrels and looking through microscopes rather than pursuing traditional (and more socially acceptable) "female" activities of the late 19th century. She receives an excellent secondary education and becomes one of the first women admitted to Montreal's McGill University, and her academic career is at least tolerated until she makes it clear she wants to attend McGill medical school. The dean and the all-male faculty make it difficult for Agnes by requiring her to come up with $250,000 to accommodate separate facilities, but even when, with the help of enlightened and liberal friends, she comes up with this enormous sum, the medical college refuses to enroll her. She gets her degree at a rival institution, however, and is eventually put in charge of a museum of pathology that contains a number of her father's prize specimenshearts preserved for medical study. Besides her absent father, Agnes meets two men with extreme influence on her life: William Howlett, a prominent heart specialist, and Jakob Hertzlich, an eccentric but brilliant medical student who never earns his degree.Rothman clearly admires this early feminist pioneer, who overcomes tremendous male prejudice to establish a distinguished career in her own right.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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