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‘This diary records, in the terse fashion of a man with little time to spare, three driven, harassed years in the life of a hospital consultant. . . We can’t guess at the diarist’s intentions; in his worst moments he thought his words would never be read, let alone published. So constraints are off. Uncensored opinions are expressed and the writer himself, in all his irascible selfhood, takes us by the sleeve and furnishes us with an uncalculated account of his life and times.’
So wrote Hilary Mantel in the Guardian in 2008. This is only an extract from a much longer piece in which Hilary Mantel reveals her pleasure at rediscovering this book. It is edited by David Selbourne, Hugh Selbourne’s son, and in his introduction he writes, ‘ This record provides a self-portrait, a medical portrait of a community, and one observant man’s response to a time of flux in the early 1960s. Moreover, there is to be found in the circumstances which brought people down and hence to my father’s attentions, a complex part of the social history of our times, a part which is usually hidden. It was a period of cultural overlap, in which patients who could have stepped from the pages of Dickens, and who were ”bred by the conditions of of the industrial revolution”, rubbed shoulders with the first generation of post-war working class and welfare state teenagers.’
The eloquent advocacy of Hilary Mantel and David Selbourne is more than justified: open this diary anywhere, but if you are sensible you will start at the beginning, and you will be drawn in immediately.
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