Under the Knife (translated from the Dutch by Andy Brown) is full of startling, occasionally nauseating tales of slicing and stitching. Like many of the classical and medieval medical texts it cites, it can be read out of order or piecemeal, depending on one’s interests and tolerance for gore. Descriptions of tuberculous bone as 'Camembert-like' and of the Sun King’s anal fistula are not for the faint of heart. But Dr. van de Laar can be quite funny, too, as when he describes the scene at the deathbed of Queen Caroline of England in 1737. As she lay dying due to surgical bungling, George II, 'sobbing and snivelling,' promised that he would never marry again. With remarkable sang-froid, she urged him to reconsider. 'No,' he blurted. 'I shall have mistresses.' How selfless.
...These collected essays by van de Laar originally appeared in a Dutch journal of surgery ... Beyond his interesting review of surgical history, van de Laar also offers insight into the thought process and philosophy of those who cut to heal.
Amsterdam surgeon Van de Laar devotes his first book to vivid descriptions of notable surgeries, from ancient times to the present. Trial, error, and gore fill these lively accounts of professionals (and a few amateurs) wielding the scalpel to remedy bodily affliction ... Fast-paced and lucid, this is medical history not for those with weak stomachs.