The funniest introduction into the life as a medical student. Ever..

Ok, this will sound like one of the corniest phrases ever, but unfortunately it’s utterly true: This book made me study Medicine.

I know, this is sad, but hey, there I was, a hapless 16 year old teenager devoid of any medium term plan of what to do with my life, and then, one day, a tattered old rororo edition of “Doctor in the house” (in German, of all languages) fell into my lap while trying to find some erotica in my granddad’s bookshelf. The title looked intriguing enough, and so I started reading: the whole novel in one go. After putting the book down 4 hours later (it’s only 156 pages long in the paperback edition) I knew what I wanted to become: A Medical Student

Forget about the whole business about being a doctor, no, it was the medical student bit I was interested in: from the description of Gordon, it was mainly smoking, drinking, shagging nurses and playing pranks on your fellow students and professors. So I enrolled into Med School, and do you know what: 37 years later on since the first print run, it was still exactly like that. According to the lore, a bored Richard Gordon wrote it on his first job after university as a ship's doctor on a freighter on one of those long transatlantic crossings. After his initial success he wrote 36 more. And then became the editor of the British Medical Journal.

So, what’s it about?

Well, as I mentioned, it’s about being a medical student. To be correct, it’s about being a medical student in the first part of the twentieth century at the very real sounding, but fictitious medical school St Swithin’s, somewhere in the south of London. Richard, being the son of a GP of course tried to enroll into his father’s alma mater, and, as a good rugby player at grammar school was of course accepted by the dean without any other inquiries. He soon makes friends with Grimsdyke , a mature student who had discovered the way to the perfect life (his rich grandmother bequeathed him a generous yearly allowance while he studied medicine, so he made damn sure that he would fail his finals every year. Just. (Terry Pratchett modelled his Rudolph Valentino copy Victor Tugelbend's {from Moving Pictures} university years on Grimsdyke. They even share a moustache). Their mate is Benskin, a redfaced rugby-crazed hunk who only has an interest in beer and nursing students. Together they discover intercourse, beer, smoking, dead bodies and the odd bit of anatomy. They find out about the dangers of having any contact at all with Midwives, the idiocy of surgeons, Guiness Enemas and above all, male bonding.

To say that this book is life changing is to utterly ignore its importance: I am sure that it must have propelled thousands of ignorant idle young men into med school all over the world, just to share Richard Gordon's experience of fondling beer glasses and nursing students.

And you know what? It's all true.

Richard Gordon: Doctor in the House; House of Stratus (reissue), 2001, 156 pages

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