The fascinating novel based on Cape Town’s infamous Dr. James Barry, born Margaret Anne Bulkley, an Irish girl and who changed her name, lived as a man, and revolutionized medicine in the Western world.
“She died, so I might live.”
A lot of people have never heard of this brilliant physician. I had read another book on him and quite enjoyed it.
Starting out as a child in Ireland, Margaret Bulkley, her sister and parents are not well off. But Margaret has ambitions and her mother leaves home with her to study at Edinburgh’s medical school. With a wealthy patron behind her there is only one problem. Women are not allowed in medical school.
It was a problem, but one that was easily and willingly solved by getting rid of Margaret and becoming James Barry. And he did it well. Of course there were dangers of being found out. And there was a lot of talk. There was a lot of tragedy.
Dr. Barry was simply brilliant. She served in military hospitals, she brought female medicine out of the dark ages, even performing the first C-Section in Africa! He was a strong advocate of equal access to medical care and the treatment of leprosy.
It must have been a lonely life with few to confide in. Even after the first woman graduated from medical school, he stayed James.
The ease with which he embraced James was interesting to me. He was comfortable with himself and maybe he was trans.
Of all the magnificent achievements he made, after death his secret was laid bare on an autopsy table. A man, born a woman who had delivered a child at one time.
Very controversial in that time and to be honest in this one as well.
Well researched and written.
NetGalley/ June 1st, 2021 by Little Brown