Tuesday 31 May 2022

What I've been reading in May

 It's not been the best book reading month for me this month - that's not to say that I didn't read any books, but the books that I read don't leave me wanting to recommend them to anyone as 'must read' books.

Our book club choice this month was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Well, this is quite unlike any book I've read before.  It is the true story of cells which were taken from the body of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer, when she was being treated for cancer.  Scientists refer to her as 'HeLa' from the first two letters of her name.  Her cells were found to be quite unlike those taken from any other patients and they have been reproduced over and over and still live on today.  They have been used in the medical industry for vital research on new vaccines, treatment for illnesses, and investigation into how our bodies work.  They have brought new knowledge about chromosomes and the disabilities that are associated with them.  They have even been sent into space to research how human cells respond to such environments.

Yet neither Henrietta nor her family were aware that her cells had been taken and were being used for such research. It was not until 20 years after her death that the story of the immortality of her cells was discovered.  The book throws up so many questions about consent, and how people of that era would not dare question a medical professional especially if a patient was black and the doctor was white.  Not an easy read at times, but so interesting to learn about medical research and the way that one woman has quite literally saved so many lives and helped in the development of new treatments and vaccines.  

It is a fascinating tale, yet ... I did not finish the book.  There is no doubt that the story of the invaluable medical research that one person enabled is huge, but I just found it a bit hard going the further into the book that I read.  According to my kindle, I read 56% - I learnt so much, yet didn't feel that I was enjoying the writing.

So I then went on to try The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi.

Paul had bought it as a recommendation by a local bookshop as he is always keen to try something that he hasn't heard of before.  If you click on the link above, you will see that the reviews were good so he decided to try something new. He finished it and when I said I was looking for another book he said I 'might' like it but possibly not!  Well never let it be said that I don't try different styles or authors.  This is actually a translation of an Italian novel, which may explain the language style in some places. 

The Hummingbird is Marco Carrera, given the nickname due to his short stature plus the fact that he seems to be able to remain still, even in the midst of a lifetime of loss and challenges.  He has to deal with the suicide of his sister, care of elderly parents, his unhappy marriage, psychological problems of his daughter, the need to take guardianship  for his grandaughter and his love for another woman. This poor man has so many tragedies in his life!  A therapist tells him that in order to be able to properly care for others you have to remember the advice given on a plane in the case of loss of air pressure - you need to put on your own face mask before you can look after a dependant.  He needs to look after himself in order to have the strength to weather the storms that life throws at him.  

I did finish the book but it didn't make me want to read 'just one more chapter' before I turned off the light.  It's an interesting story but it's not one I'm going to urge you to try.  

Let's hope that June's reading choice is more to my taste! 


Susanne said...

I have the Henrietta Lacks books, but have yet to start it. May was just not a heavy reading month for me either.

Patio Postcards said...

Thanks for the book reviews. I've put these on my "reads for later" as I first have to get through the 5 arriving at the library for me :)

Gail Is This Mutton? said...

I have dry spells where I can't seem to find a good book, and don't finish the ones I try. One of my favorite authors has books out in the next few weeks - Jane Fallon, which I can add to my holiday list.

Ruth said...

Nothing here is grabbing my attention, sadly! I'll bookmark and maybe come back to them.

Barbara Eads said...

We read Henrietta Lacks for our family book club several years ago. It was a lot of fun hearing the comments and thoughts of the younger generation. We found it unbelievable that even today, the family has never received any compensation when millions are being made on her cells!