The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon’s Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

Farrar. Jun. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780374282301. $30. MED
Fitzharris (The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest To Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine), an Oxford-trained historian of medicine, writes an engaging, at times moving biography of Harold Gillies, whose work rebuilding the faces of British soldiers disfigured during World War I, laid the groundwork for developing modern plastic surgery. The book chronicles, with considerable pathos and sensitivity, the ethics and moral feelings that drove Gillies’ work. He believed that individuals with facial disfigurements often suffered a kind of social isolation when they returned home. Surgery was a way of helping them regain dignity and be integrated into society. Gillies was pioneering and often experimental. At times his efforts were quite successful, and at other times, his efforts did not achieve his desired hopes. Still, he continued to develop his techniques in the hope that he could improve the lives of soldiers and make them more able to return to society. The book gives an especially detailed portrait of the hospital facility that Gilles established in order to do his work.
VERDICT This book will interest both general readers and historians of medicine, and will remind readers of the long-term costs of the horrors of modern war.
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