For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. In this memoir, he shares stories from 25 years on the front lines.
This is the story of a surgeon who has worked in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones; from besieged Sarajevo to rebel-held Aleppo. But it is much more than that. It is a compelling depiction of humanity – of the terrible acts of barbarity and the astounding acts of compassion we humans are capable of ... an unselfconscious, unpretentious account of why [Nott] does what he does ... Nott, in an unguarded, innocent and tender way, reveals his internal psychological world, carrying the reader through his sometimes epic war stories. This is not some elaborate literary device. The authenticity and unselfconsciousness of the narrative unveils a kind of purity of intention, an innocence of sorts, on the part of the author ... Many of these stories are not for the faint-hearted – they are haunting stories that will echo and resonate in the head and the heart of the reader long after the book is returned to its shelf ... an intense read and at times a dense read. Some might criticise Nott as he attempts to provide the reader with a detailed geopolitical backdrop to the various regions he volunteers in. However, he moves from the 'big picture' of the geopolitical backdrop to quickly transport the reader to the human consequences of such conflict ... an important book that speaks to important issues of our time. It vividly demonstrates the transformative power of humanitarian values in action. It also captures the beautiful paradox of human vulnerability.
We’re hardly short of books by doctors describing difficult work carried out in straitened circumstances, but Nott’s is something else entirely. Where most people strive to avoid trouble, he actively goes in search of it ... His stories of courage and compassion in the face of seemingly certain death are breathtaking ... Nott is unsparing in his descriptions of civilian injuries...All make for astonishing and distressing reading ... While this is far from a straightforward memoir – his childhood plus his years of medical training speed by in a single chapter – we nonetheless get a vivid sense of his energy, his determination and his desperate, howling rage at the cruelty that humans wreak on one another ... If a film about [Nott's] life isn’t already in development, someone’s missing a trick.
One of the most brutally vivid evocations of modern warfare that you will read ... One of the great strengths of this superb, unforgettable, simply written and painfully clear memoir is the virtual absence of politics — although he does paint an extremely ugly picture of Russia’s role in the Syrian civil war, as well as its bare-faced mendacity.