Reviews of Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

‘Neurosurgery has met its Boswell in Henry Marsh. Painfully honest about the mistakes that can  “wreck” a brain, exquisitely attuned to the tense and transient bond between doctor and patient, and hilariously impatient of hospital management, Marsh draws us deep into medicine’s most difficult art and lifts our spirits. It’s a superb achievement’
Ian McEwan

‘When a book opens like this: “I often have to cut into the brain and it is something I hate doing” – you can’t let it go, you have to read on, don’t you? … I trust completely the skills of those who practise [brain surgery], and tend to forget the human element, which is failures, misunderstandings, mistakes, luck and bad luck, but also the non-professional, everyday life that they have. Do No Harm by Henry Marsh reveals all of this, in the midst of life-threatening situations, and that’s one reason to read it: true honesty in an unexpected place. But there are plenty of others’
Karl Ove Knausgaard, Financial Times

‘An astonishing memoir, a searingly honest book from a senior doctor that offers intense insights into life and death. With candour and compassion, Marsh draws the reader into agonising decisions over delicate, microscopic surgery that he compares with bomb disposal work, such are the catastrophic consequences of mistakes. A brilliant and unforgettable work’
Ian Birrell, Independent

‘Marsh has written a book about a love affair, and one cannot help feeling similarly smitten … “Elegant, delicate, dangerous and full of profound meaning”. All four of those epithets might describe this book’
Ed Caesar, Sunday Times

‘Why has no one ever written a book like this before? It simply tells the stories, with great tenderness, insight and self-doubt, of a phenomenal neurosurgeon who has been at the height of his specialism for decades and now has chosen with retirement looming to write an honest book. Why haven’t more surgeons written books, especially of this prosaic beauty? … Well, thank God for Henry Marsh … One of the finest admissions to emerge in this phenomenal book is that of every surgeon’s dilemma, which is the inability to play God … what a bloody, splendid book: commas optional’
Euan Ferguson, Observer

‘Henry Marsh is a neurosurgical consultant in a London teaching hospital, and his memoir, Do No Harm, offers an astonishing glimpse into this stressful career … The case histories are fascinating, but more importantly they are full of humanity. Marsh is the most honest author I’ve ever come across with regard to his own failings … This is a wonderful book, passionate and frank. If Marsh is even a tenth as good a neurosurgeon as he is a writer, I’d let him open my skull any time’
Leyla Sanai, Independent on Sunday

‘Brain surgeons such as Henry Marsh, the author of this startling and moving memoir, have to live breathe, operate and make urgent decisions in full awareness of a terrible dilemma: if they open the skull they might save the patient’s life, but a slip of the scalpel can cause appalling disability which, as Marsh puts it, can be much worse than death … It’s this disarming candour that makes the book such an enthralling read … fascinating’
Gavin Francis, Guardian

‘Excellent … hugely compelling’
William Leith, The Spectator

‘[Henry Marsh] has you on the edge of your seat … In the select band of those who take on this daily dance with high anxiety he must, I think, be a great man’
Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

‘This is a deeply compassionate account of a professional life spent on the edge, a job which has huge highs and appalling lows … Henry Marsh is a world-class neurosurgeon but he is also a great storyteller … This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man’
Michael Mosley, Focus

‘Henry Marsh’s unflinchingly honest and profoundly moving memoir … illuminates the life-and-death decisions neurosurgeons wrestle with daily, the intricate marvels of the brain’s anatomy, the joys and scourges of technological advances, the frustrations of working in a cash-starved NHS and all the conflicting emotions these struggles evoke … Marsh conveys his awe of the human body with literary flair … courageous and inspirational’
Wendy Moore, Literary Review

Do No Harm is an elegant series of meditations at the closing of a long career. Many of the stories are moving enough to raise tears … At heart, this is a book about wisdom and experience’
Nicholas Blincoe, Daily Telegraph

‘Marsh offers us a memoir of startling honesty … Marsh’s frankness speaks of a reflective character who found an unconventional route to his career … Thirty years on he remains invigorated by the job – part Sherlock Holmes in diagnosis, part Action Man in theatre. At times he’s positively gleeful, and we share his excitement as he puts us in his surgeon’s shoes and guides us through the hidden topography of the brain’
Ben Felsenburg, Mail on Sunday

Do No Harm is in many respects a self-lacerating document: by and large, it contains stories not of triumph, or the author’s skill and expertise, but of the emotional and psychological toll exacted when things go horribly wrong … His understanding of the nature of suffering is deep and personal’
Erica Wagner, New Statesman

‘Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh … sets a new standard for telling it like it is … His love for brain surgery and his patients shines through, but the specialty – shrouded in secrecy and mystique when he entered it – has now firmly had the rug pulled out from under it. We should thank Henry Marsh for that. We need his wisdom as a “roof” for future surgeons and a rein for public expectations. A good death, without surgery, is a very good outcome’
Phil Hammond, The Times

‘A wonderful read, essential for anyone curious about what it’s really like to be a surgeon’
Jaffe and Neale Bookshop & Cafe, banburyguardian.co.uk

‘A difficult book to read, not formally or technically – Marsh has a fluid, informal style – but because of the sheer sense of exposure. Puns aside, neurosurgery is at the cutting edge of what it means to be, not only a doctor with limited power to cure or palliate, but to be human … The simple idea that doctors themselves are of the same flesh and blood as their patients, a fact often forgotten on both sides of the relationship, is at the core of … Do No Harm
Séamus Sweeney, Times Literary Supplement

Do No Harm is [Marsh’s] restless, unflinching memoir on the pain and exhilaration of his profession. It’s told with searing candour … The lean, unadorned prose Marsh deploys to describe these everyday details matches his soul-baring honesty … The book’s daunting tenor is frequently punctuated by Marsh’s scathingly black humour … It is unprecedented for a neurosurgeon to prise open their profession with such uncompromising frankness. Marsh’s achievement is to humanise the complexities of neurosurgery by fearlessly exposing his own frailties’
Brendan Daly, Sunday Business Post

‘Elegantly written and heart-searingly truthful’
Jacqueline Wilson, Mail on Sunday

‘Extraordinarily intimate, compassionate and sometimes frightening … [Marsh] writes with uncommon power and frankness. And while his book may unsettle readers … it will at the same time leave them with a searing appreciation of the wonders of the human body, and gratitude that there are surgeons like Henry Marsh using their hard-won expertise to save and repair lives’
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Do No Harm is an act of atonement, an anatomy of error, and an attempt to answer, from the inside, a startling question: How can someone spend decades cutting into people’s brains and emerge whole?’
Joshua Rothman, New Yorker

‘[Marsh] does brain and spinal cord surgery on a daily basis, and this account of his working life gives an extraordinary insight into his own thought processes as well as into the world of neurosurgical briefing meetings and hospital politics. Each chapter’s starting point is a real-life case study, and the book conveys both an explorer’s fascination with the human brain and the contradictory emotional demands of dispassionate observation and compassion required of a brain surgeon’
Good Book Guide

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh is that rare thing: a memoir written by a still-practising doctor, which is actually worth reading… I don’t think I have ever read a better book on what it means to be a doctor’
Dublin Review of Books

‘A brave and compelling read that will stay with you’
Northern Echo

‘One not to miss’
mindhacks.com

‘It’s brilliant, one of the best memoirs there’s ever been about the medical profession’
Jonathan O’Brien, Waterstones Blog

‘As gripping and engrossing as the best medical drama, only with the added piquancy of being entirely true, this compelling account of what it’s really like to be a brain surgeon will have you on the edge of your sun lounger’
Sandra Parsons, Daily Mail ‘Summer Reading’

Do No Harm Book by Henry Marsh

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