Saturday, 8 March 2014

Jungle Doctor

Many, many years ago, I avidly read the Jungle Doctor books by Paul White. We had some at home and others were borrowed from the Sunday School library. Those borrowed were finished well before the week was out. In fact, these books were a major influence in my choosing to become a doctor. As it turned out,  medicine in England at the turn of the twenty first century wasn't completely the same as medicine in Africa in the 1930s: it was certainly tamer, hopefully safer and some of the illnesses were different. Still, the history taking, making a diagnosis and treating weren't so different and were brought to life in a vivid manner in these books.

Recently, we were given some copies of the Jungle Doctor books and Younger Daughter and I have been enjoying them

The Jungle Doctor series of books tell the fictionalised story of an Australian missionary doctor in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Paul White really was a missionary doctor in this area from 1938 to 1941 and the stories are based on the experiences that he, and others had. As the stories are written in the first person, they give the impression that they all happened to Paul White but some were the experiences of his colleagues. The books were written after the Whites had to leave due to the illness of Mrs White. The books have a clear Christian message. Paul White and the other workers at the hospital were working for the Lord to save souls as well as bodies.

Reading these books decades later and after over twenty years in medicine, they are still appealing but more scary. The medicine is like a historical record: M and B tablets for meningitis, nothing disposable, plenty of improvisation without going through an ethics committee, aspirin for everyone for pain and so on.

Yet these stories live on. The medicine is dated, the society is dated but the stories are compelling. What makes them compelling? The humour-Paul White isn't afraid to laugh at himself; the reality-not all the stories have happy endings; the medicine-yes, it is old fashioned but the realities of desperately sick patients come across honestly; the action; the people and the love for the Lord who inspired the work of the Church Missionary Society hospital.

Recommended for children from about 7 and well, they are a fascinating light read for adults.

My copies are loved older copies but Christian Focus has republished these books

This is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

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  1. We've been studying world geography this year, and I've tried to read a missionary biography of each continent. We just finished George Muller (Europe) and will start Nate Saint (South America) next week. We end the school year with studying Australia, but I didn't know of a missionary from there. Now, I do. Thanks!

  2. I'm glad this was useful! Thank you for visiting.