Patrick McGrath

Dr. Haggard's Disease

Small towns and villages are rife with gossip. People know everyone else and rumours spread like wildfire. People's lives are turned into small dramas, played out on the stage of peer disapproval. McGrath often seems to work on this stage, taking a story that could be told within minutes by the sharp tongued village gossip, and exploring it through the length of a novel. Though where gossip is told through a network of those outside the tiny scandal, McGrath places you right in the middle.

In Dr. Haggard's Disease the narrator is wrapped up totally in the story he is telling, one told solely from his perspective. That of a junior doctor who had an affair with an older woman during the years leading up to the second world war. The wife of one of his superiors. Like Asylum, the story is told in the past tense, with events unfurling towards the narrator's present. There are events that are alluded to throughout the novels, facts that only the narrator knows, which are gradually revealed as it approaches the conclusion of the novel. As with Asylum it is very effectively done, and this novel, written as a kind of confession to the son of the woman with whom the narrator had the affair. The whole story increasingly becoming subject to the narrator's obsessions, pushing him towards the abrupt ending. It is a story tinged with tragedy, and one that quickly draws you in and holds your attention to the end.

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