The Girl in His Shadow

Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2021. 400p. ISBN 9781728228723. pap. $16.99. F
The girl of the title is Nora Beady, ward of Dr. Horace Croft, a brilliant and eccentric London surgeon. Nora is intelligent, independent, and possessed of a natural talent for medicine and medical illustration. Dr. Croft has trained her to work as his assistant, but her role must be kept secret; although the book’s setting, the mid-19th-century medical field, is in the process of evolving, it still has no role for women, except as nurses. If word were to get out about exactly what Nora did in his private clinic, Dr. Croft could face criminal charges and lose his medical credentials. When surgical resident Daniel Gibson arrives, Nora’s role in Dr. Croft’s practice is threatened, and she is forced to decide whether to stay in the background or claim her rightful place. Jaima Fixson and Regina Sirois, writing under the name “Audrey Blake,” have created a compelling story, set in a gritty, sometimes brutal 1840s London that is mostly white. Drawing on deep research, their description of medical practices and procedures is harrowing.
VERDICT With its strong woman protagonist and authentic period detail, this is the best kind of historical fiction, transporting readers to a place and time peopled with memorable characters. Readers who enjoy medical drama will gravitate to this book.
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