Posted on 06/08/2022 at 10:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Two reviews of new nonfiction work caught our eye this morning.

NPR reviewed The Facemaker, by Lindsey Fitzharris, and the New York Times reviewed The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym, by Paula Byrne.

The Facemaker takes us back to World War I, which, like the American Civil War, featured horrific tools of destruction that far outpaced established medical treatment.

In particular, some 280,000 men are estimated to have suffered severe facial trauma during WWI.

Plastic surgery wasn't unheard of, but it was much less developed — and, Fitzharris notes, the field didn't have textbooks.

It's a detail that reviewer Maureen Corrigan couldn't forget.

So British surgeon Harold Gillies and his interdisciplinary team had to teach themselves — on living patients.

Such a history could easily come off as lurid, but Corrigan says in her review that Fitzharris avoids sensationalism to tell this important tale.

Also out: The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym, a biography of the titular English novelist.

Pym has sometimes been considered, in the words of the NYT reviewer Matthew Schneier, to have a "slightly dusty quaintness," but in biographer Byrne's hand, a much more complex picture of the Excellent Women author emerges.

Categories: Today in Books

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