Dr. Finlay’s Casebook Omnibus

by A. J. Cronin, 2010, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland (from Dr. Finlay of Tannochbrae published in 1978 and Adventures of a Black Bag, first published in 1943 and revised in 1969) 

I picked this book up in a little shop in Tarbert, a little village on Loch Fyne in Scotland while on vacation there.  I like to buy at least one book that I think will give me a bit of insight into the culture of the place I am visiting.  I didn’t know much about A. J. Cronin but my friends in Scotland quickly informed me that Dr. Finlay was the subject of a very popular BBC television show.  I subsequently found out that Cronin was initially a physician but wrote his first novel while convalescing on Loch Fyne.

When I was a youngster I read a book that my father had called Leaves from a Surgeon’s Casebook, written in 1938 by James Harpole.  Harpole was a doctor who, when he was cleaning out his office files as he was retiring, came across his old casebook from when he was first starting his practice.  He picked up the casebook and started reading it and immediately became aware of how much the medical profession had progressed over the years of his practice.  His book focused on how differently he would have treated many of those patients he could not save in the early years of his practice.

When I picked up Dr. Finlay’s Casebook, I thought I would get a little bit of the same as Harpole’s book.  It was, however, much more like James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, being more about the characters than any medical revelations.  I was surprised a bit, however, that Cronin’s characters were so direct in their speech (maybe one characteristic of the Scots).  There were many times when Dr. Finlay let his patients and some of his would-be lady loves have a piece of his mind, sometimes putting Dr. Finlay in a somewhat unfavorable light.  As to whether the book gave me much insight into the culture of rural Scotland, I suppose that it did that a bit also. 

All in all, it was a fun an enjoyable read and may lead me to read some of Cronin’s heavier works. 3 stars


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