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  • The Butchering Art

  • Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine
  • By: Lindsey Fitzharris
  • Narrated by: Sam Woolf
  • Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (287 ratings)

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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris, read by Sam Woolf.

In The Butchering Art, historian Lindsey Fitzharris re-creates a critical turning point in the history of medicine, when Joseph Lister transformed surgery from a brutal, harrowing practice to the safe, vaunted profession we know today.

Victorian operating theatres were known as 'gateways of death', Fitzharris reminds us, since half of those who underwent surgery didn't survive the experience. This was an era when a broken leg could lead to amputation, and surgeons were still known to ransack cemeteries to find cadavers. And in squalid, overcrowded hospitals, doctors remained baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high.

At a time when surgery couldn't have been more dangerous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: Joseph Lister, a young Quaker surgeon. By making the audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection - and could be treated with antiseptics - he changed the history of medicine forever.

With a novelist's eye for detail, Fitzharris brilliantly conjures up the grisly world of Victorian surgery, revealing how one of Britain's greatest medical minds finally brought centuries of savagery, sawing and gangrene to an end.

©2017 Lindsey Fitzharris (P)2017 Penguin AudioBooks

What listeners say about The Butchering Art

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Animal lovers:B Beware

Couldn't bring myself to read anymore after a horrific description of a live vivisection of a dog.

Was so disturbing, it reduced me to tears.

6 people found this helpful

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One man can change the world

I have been fascinated by Joseph Lister since first reading about him for a school project when I was just 10 years old. The children’s encyclopaedia I consulted then, however, gave little hint of the drama and intensity of the uphill battle Lister had to convince the medical profession that using antiseptic methods was not a mere whim. It is hard for us in the C21 to imagine that time when, although Pasteur had documented the reality of microbes in his work, yet many doctors could not get their heads around the idea of “ the germ”.

Lindsay Fitzharris’ book supported by his clear and careful narration had me seizing every opportunity to listen in. There were many shocking moments in the story, some of which, with their detailed descriptions of operations when Lister first entered medical school, could perhaps deter a less determined reader from going on. But for me the most harrowing story was of the time Lister had to operate on his own sister who had developed breast cancer. It is hard to imagine how he must have faced up to this trial knowing every other surgeon had refused to operate.

Lister changed the world of medicine for ever. There was no one else even close . Everyone should know about this gentle and determined and brilliant man. We take for granted the notion that when surgery is necessary everything will be conducted in a way to maximise the healing process and minimise the possibility of infection. Indeed today antibiotics are also at the doctors disposal should infection arise. Lister and his fellow surgeon had no such fallback and most post op infections led to death or at best amputation.

Reflect on these things.

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Really enjoyed it...

But it’s not for the faint hearted and it’s got a lot of information about people, places etc. I got a wee bit lost so had to rewind now and again. Google became my best friend plus it’s well read.

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Pacy, evocative and gory!

Lively depiction of a critical time in medical history. Very accessible for a layman with some cringe worthy descriptions of surgery, wounds and infections.

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Very interesting book

I knew a little about early surgery - but learned a lot more! A fascinating account of how early operations were performed, and butchery is certainly the right word. Amazing that anyone survived before Joseph Lister and his contemporaries began to fully understand the implications of opening up a body.

It was perhaps a little long ..... but highly informative. More really a biography of Joseph Lister. Recommended.

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Very interesting.

An interesting and informative view into the world of the surgeon before, during and after clean, antiseptic and aseptic treatment was introduced by Dr Lister. Also a view at the collision of two sciences that showed the world why medicine needed to co-join biology and chemistry. Showing surgery and medicine as the science based craft it was a pulling physics, chemistry and biology together to improve hospital practices.

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Great read

Great read for any surgeon interested in the history of their craft as well as the general public.

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Absolutely brilliant

This is such a good, interesting book. I was disappointed when it came to an end. Don't let the title put you off. If you love social history, you'll love this.

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Fascinating

An extremely interesting account of Lister and the Victorian age of medicine. It was read very well as well.

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Very interesting and entertaining

Really interesting and entertaining biography of Joseph Lister and the origin and evolution of hygiene and infection control. Well paced.
Narrator very good at keeping interest and changing accents subtly depending on who is speaking.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-12-18

Excellent

This book is not for the faint of heart... it is a true glimpse to Victorian times, with all of the gory, messy details. But it's also beautifully written (and performed), and gives us a real sense of what medicine and life was like at the early days of the industrial revolution. It's not overly academic and not overly literary - it's just the right amount of both.
And truly, what a unique and compelling story to tell. Wonderful.
I should also mention Sam Woolf for his excellent narration, not a dull moment.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-11-21

From House of Death to House of Health

A lovely little book! The focus is very much on Joseph Lister, with his work put into context within the era. I missed, however, a bit more biochemical substance. For example about the disinfectants effect on bacteria and the body. We are told that it works, but not how.

It's an entertaining text and very much worth the read.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-08-21

A masterpiece turning biography into art.

It is difficult to decide whether to classify this book as a piece of fictional literature, or surgical biography. The author approaches the telling of this biography with a novelist's sensibilities, and it is to their endless credit.

There is hardly a page that passes which is not endlessly entertaining and divinely captivating. The author strikes the perfect balance between the enumeration of biographical facts, the description of the societal and historical contexts within which the narrated events transpire, and the almost novelist narration of thought and drama.

Whether the prospective reader is a medical professional, a history enthusiast, a literary connoisseur, or a casual dabbler, this is a manifestly beneficious choice.

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  • Luis Ferreira
  • 10-08-21

great book

very captivating, great insight in Victorian era medicine and its surroundings. the author not only covers the medicine aspects but also details living conditions and state of the cities in this era

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-06-20

Great book :)

Great book , loved it. Great narration. Lindsey nailed it . Great book, great book , great book

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-06-20

Super interesting

I loved both the story and the narration. I strongly suggest listening to this book to someone who is interested in medicine.

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  • Kerryn
  • 29-03-20

Beautifully read and inspiring story

inspiring story in these troubling times. Hopefully we get many Listers in the coming months.

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  • Nora
  • 06-11-18

Fascinating!

Truly remarkable piece of medical history and the discovery of germs. At times a little gross and graphic, it only serves to highlight how far we have come. I have a new hero!