This is Going to Hurt

by Adam Kay, Picador, £16.99

My wife is a few months away from giving birth to our second child, so perhaps it wasn’t the best of times to be reading This is Going to Hurt, an account of Adam Kay’s six years working as a junior doctor. It’s a book, written in diary form, that should come with a health warning. Kay specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology, and he chronicles an array of eye-watering maternity ward stories, many of them more blood-soaked than your average crime novel.

Since quitting his job in medicine, Kay has gone on to forge a successful career in comedy and, at times, the book reads like a stand-up set as he packs in a huge amount of crude jokes and scatological anecdotes. Along with all the moments of hideousness, Kay has also great fun detailing the regular absurdities of working in the NHS, from the rubbish IT systems to the week he had no work to do after his ward was cleared in response to the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

Despite the constant comic tone, Kay doesn’t shy away from the inevitably tragic side of his work, and there are plenty of moments in which the cruelty of random illnesses and the fragile nature of life are brought into sharp contrast with the general chaos of a junior doctor’s working day. When Kay writes about patients such as the woman with ovarian cancer who worries how her family will cope after her death, he does so with great sensitivity and skill.

Often the stuff that comedians ramble on about when they’re up on stage prompts questions about the veracity of their stories. Some, I’m sure, stick rigidly to the truth, while others use varying degrees of creative licence when spinning their yarns. So extreme are some of Kay’s tales that I occasionally wondered quite how true some of them are (one particularly disgusting one involving a chocolate egg and a marriage proposal truly made my mind boggle).

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