THE FACEMAKER: One Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I by Lindesy Fitzharris
It has been five years since Lindsey Fitzharris's debut "The Butchering Art" hit the bookshelves and now the wait is finally over for her long awaited follow up, "The Facemaker."
Telling the story of pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, Fitzharris moves into the 20th Century and the conflict that left its brutal mark. The Great War, as it was referred to, changed the world forever and for its survivors, left their lives forever changed.
For 300,000 men, their faces were left unrecognisable. Harold Gillies made it his aim to give them more normality. Suffering some of the most awful wounds, Gillies and his team would rebuild their faces not only physically but also emotionally.
Collaboration is a key theme throughout Fitzharris's new book. Whilst Gillies is at the centre of the story this is much more than a biography as Fitzharris is also keen to highlight the work of others who inspired Gillies, the team around him and their collective determination to heal the wounded faces. This is a book not only about their ground breaking surgeries but also their unbinding compassion.
The soldiers themselves also feature heavily in The Facemaker. Stories such as that of Private Percy Clare, who opens the book, are particularly emotive as we follow his story from his wounding at the Battle of Cambrai to his time with Gillies. It is graphic and yet in true Fitzharris style, sublimely beautiful, taking the reader through a harrowing journey from the depths of hellish warfare to one of hope and redemption.
Like most works of pioneering medical treatments we are also exposed to the element of medical trial and error. Not all of Gillies patients survived the new treatments to plastic surgery. The gut- wrenching story of William Henry Young leaves an emotional toll on Gillies and his team reminding us that the dangers faced by the soldiers were not left behind on the battlefield.
The Facemaker takes us on a emotional journey which wonderfully weaves together the plight of all of those involved. Told with pathos, it is clear that Fitzharris admires Gillies greatly for what he did for the men who sacrificed so much for so many.
Regardless as to whether or not The Great War interests you, this is a story about humanity and the extraordinary lengths people will go to in order to bring people back from the depths of despair.
What we are left with is a ground breaking work which is destined for the best seller list...and rightfully so.