Round the Red Lamp, Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
My overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Round the Red Lamp is not a novel, but a collection of short stories. Each is somehow connected with doctors and their work, of the late Victorian era; but beyond that, they hold few similarities. Nostalgia, romance, horror, comedy, science-fiction, realism--the genres vary drastically from story to story, with plots ranging from the heartwarming to the nerve-wracking. And oftentimes, the reader can only guess at what is Fact and what is Fancy.
The subject of Victorian doctors may sound, at a glance, boring; but I found this book to be a real page-turner and excellent reading (with a couple of exceptions). I especially loved the "day in the life" stories that seemed firmly based on reality (i.e. "His First Operation", "A Medical Document"), and the hilarious "A False Start", about a young doctor desperate for patients. "Lot No. 249"--a creepy, Egyptian mummy story set in Oxford--is probably my favorite. And "A Physiologist's Wife" was another one that stood out to me, such a sad story.
As in the Sherlock Holmes series, Doyle's writing style is particularly powerful in the short story format. Within a few pages, you can go from disliking a character to liking them; and the action flows naturally, with plenty of witty dialogue and vivid, but efficient, description. The characters, too, are very life-like, especially for a short story. I don't know how he does it, but it's genius...
Recommended for anybody who likes late-Victorian lit.