Shapeshifters: On Medicine and Human Change by Gavin Francis


Book Title:
Shapeshifters: On Medicine & Human Change


Gavin Francis

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This collection of brief, engaging essays/meditations is meant to be “a celebration of dynamism and transformation in human life, both as a way of thinking about the body, and as a universal truth”. Gavin Francis is an Edinburgh GP and award-winning writer (Adventures in Human Being, among others). There are 24 compact essays ranging from conception to death. Along the way we linger on such varied subjects as sleep, werewolves, anorexia, jetlag, memory, castration, menopause, puberty, prosthetics and laughter. Most essays are anchored by a case study of one of Francis’s patients. Castration, for example, revolves around the treatment of one man’s (probably terminal) prostate cancer (a subject all too familiar to this reviewer: guys, get your PSA tested every year). A discussion on gigantism takes an odd turn to consider Nietzsche’s descent into madness, a study of the scalp becomes a survey of horns in mythology, and we close with a fascinating if not-for-the-delicate attendance at an autopsy. A fine read.

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