Van has finished reading…The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut

4 Jul

The Good Doctor is not a likeable man. That’s hardly surprising since we see him through the skewed perception of Dr Frank, who dislikes him. It’s a clever stroke to give us his perspective though because we find ourselves agreeing with Dr Frank. The Good Doctor doesn’t seem so good. In fact he seems meddlesome, worthy and at times highly manipulative. And here’s where Damon Galgut draws a fine blade. It’s Frank’s perception – and actually there doesn’t seem to be much that Frank does like, including himself – that allows us such a cynical view of what seems to be one man’s ideological standpoint and desire to make a difference.
There is no doubt that the Good Doctor is an effective catalyst. Dropped in amongst the disaffected workers in their nowhere hospital, things start to happen. There is a breath of life, a moment of animation, the whiff of possibility. Yet Frank’s dissent feels natural to us, so natural that his own attempts at manipulation seem wholly logical as a defence against The Good Doctor’s onslaught. It is a battle of wills that we are presented with, and it’s interesting to consider how very upbeat a book it would have been had we lived in Dr Laurence’s shoes instead (though I doubt so many readers would have stuck with such relentless – and blind – optimism).
When the politics of a place have been written so large on the consciousness of the world it’s hard to step back and take a cold view. I’ve never lived there and my awareness of the situation is, l suspect like so many others’, black and white. There’s a lot in this book that serves to confirm that point of view, but there are a good few shades between as well. What’s certainly apparent is that no single good intention is ever going to change so many ingrained points of view.
But is that a good enough reason not to try?


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