the book I bought in John Hunter hospital bookstore

“Show me a med student that only triples my work, and I will kiss his feet.”

I should be offended. Med student can’t be that bad. Ehem ehem.

Well, granted, ward rounds attended by med students tend to delay the registrar’s work quite a bit, but that is purely because the registrar has the duty of teaching and passing on his knowledge to the students….not because of any actual mistakes done by the students to triple the registrar’s work.


Look, if you guys want a synopsis of this book, then let me direct you to a better source other than my humble blog. Go to Wikipedia. Wikipedia has quite an acceptably accurate synopsis of The House of God which captures all the essence of the novel’s plot.

I am just going to talk about what I feel when I was reading the book…what is good about the book …and what is bad about it. The reason I don’t include synopsis in my review is because it’s really tiring to do it and it takes quite a lot of effort to have the story retold in your own words. Besides, you can never do any novels justice by giving a half-hearted synopsis. I’d much rather direct my blog readers to a better source of synopsis than I could ever provide.

Furthermore, I am a firm believer of the fact that “what makes a novel good, has very little to do with the plot.” Don’t believe me? Heck, think about it!

How many different plots can people invent to tell a love story? How many unique scenarios can you creatively conjur up to write about murder and crime? All plots are repetitive…what makes a novel special is the experience that you have whilst reading it. And how pleasant that experience you’re gonna get has a lot to do with the author’s style of writing, the author’s command of poetic language, the humorous words used, the irony employed.

Very little to do with the plot.

If all you can do is plot a story…don’t be a writer. Because plotting a story is the easiest part of writing…

How to make the plot alive and stand out and memorable…. Now, that takes a lot of talent and skills that only a good writer can accomplish.

That’s the reason I don’t waste my time giving out extended synopsis which I could summarize in two or three sentences. So here goes:

House of God is written by a psychiatrist, Samuel Shem. It’s a story about an intern undergoing a lot of trials and tribulations during his internship, trying to reconcile his morals and belief system with the reality that is going on before his eyes. He went through many phases of adaptation and has to face disillusionment about the running of the hospital system. A lot of ethical issues were being brought up in the novel which never fails to make you use your God-given brain.

I think that should be enough for a synopsis! Please forgive me for not having the motivation to give any more than that.

What I like about The House of God:

1) It makes you THINK!

The House of God is a satirical novel. So it makes you think…by creating events or characteristics that bring out the irony or the ridicule of an often overlooked reality around us.

It makes you think about your ethics as a doctor especially around the issues of a GOMER (referred to the elderlies; an acronym for Get Out of My Emergency Room). How far should you intervene?

It questions whether or not we, as doctors, can really cure and elevate sufferings? Sometimes, don’t we just make it worse with unnecessary investigations and tests (and then conduct further investigations and tests to investigate the abnormalities found in the previous investigations and tests) when all we need to do is just treat the patient as human; maybe once in a while listen to them emphatically. Which is why, I guess, the protagonist ended up being a psychiatrist in the end.

It also makes you think about the gruesome reality of being an intern. That how can they take care of the patients when no one is taking care of them? One of the characters in the novel ended up killing himself. And one of them become psychotic. It’s so sad…that when you graduated from the best medical school…feeling motivated (and a healthy dose of fear) to cure and heal…and then found out that what you are doing amount to nothing much other than referring patients to another doctor, or transferring patients to another ward, order lots of investigations and tests that most of the time would oblige you to do further tests to investigate the abnormalities in the previous tests…you get the picture.

And this book also points out quite correctly that sometimes the most good you can do to a patient is by not doing anything at all.

“Primum non nocere –> first of all, do no harm.”

Remember that, always!

2)It’s quite literary

I think it might go into the genre of medical literature (if there’s such genre) rather than medical fiction. To tell you the truth, I am not entirely sure what makes a book literary and what makes it fiction.

But I do know that this book has enough substance in them, told in a satirical manner, that makes you think and reflect.

And it creates its own glossary too. Like Gomer and Gomere(referring to elderlies), and LOL in NAD (Little Old Lady in No Apparent Distress), Slurpers , Turf and Buff. It’s quite funny sometimes.

3)It’s quite truthful

This is the reality of the medical work. The doctors are overworked, underpaid, overstressed and unappreciated. And the Truth is represented by the many Laws repeatedly mentioned in this book.

-Gomers don’t die

-Gomers go to ground

-At a cardiac arrest, the first procedure is to take your own pulse.

-The delivery of medical care is to do as much nothing as possible.

Some Laws are quite funny:

-the only good admission is a dead admission

-Show me a BMS who only triples my work, and I will kiss his feet.

You can read the book itself to know the rest of the Laws in the House of God that makes you stop and think.

My Complaints:

When the author described the protagonist adulterous life…the details are just too explicit and unnecessary. I always think that the pre-, peri-, and post-coital scenes in a novel is not necessary…not even in the genre of romance. Let alone in a satirical work wanting to bring up a lot of moral and ethical issues in the medical world.

Well, maybe in one or two scenes….but not in too much details in every one of them. In my humble opinion, it mars the integrity of the novel, somewhat. Which I think is just as important as the intellectuality of the novel.

I am just of the opinion that too much details regarding the coital acts and too many of them in a book (even in romance) makes the book somehow CHEAPER. I mean, if anyone is to take that particular part as an excerpt to a novel, you will NOT think that this is an excerpt of an intellectual novel…but a coitus fantasy of playing doctor and nurse.

Other than that, I truly enjoyed my time reading the novel. I guess, if I wasn’t too busy with my studies and other commitments, I would have been able to read the book in only one day. As it was….I spent 2 hours of each day of the seven days it took me to finish the novel.

For medical students, this book is a MUST read.

But a word of caution; I am not entirely sure how enjoyable this book would be to those who do not have any background knowledge in medicine. Because the issues in this novel may appear less relevant and incomprehensible to those who don’t know the reality of the world of medicine.

But you can give it a try…you generally will know whether or not you will enjoy a novel by reading the first few chapters (if not the first few pages) of that novel. Well, that’s what I found anyway.

Will I keep it in my bookshelf?