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The Heart Specialist
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2009
This is one of those books that causes the very best kind of dilemma. You can't put it down...but at the same time, you really don't want to finish! "The Heart Specialist" is the story of Agnes White, a somewhat socially awkward female living in the turn of the 20th century. Agnes has a talent and passion for one thing, medicine, and being a female at this time makes any realization of her dream very difficult. She is not a natural crusader, but she has one thing going for her... the complete inability to visualize a life that doesn't allow her to pursue her insatiable curiosity. This book drew me into the difficulties of that tumultous time period and made me appreciate the efforts of those 'quiet' women, who did not rally or wave banners, but eroded the barriers they faced by just doing the job better.
"The Heart Specialist" is beautifully written with detail that makes you hear, see and smell the times and makes you love and root for Agnes to not only find professional success but also find herself.
I had the pleasure a few years ago of reading a book of short stories by this author, Claire Rothman Holden, and became a fan then. I was thrilled to learn that she had written a novel, and could not wait to read it. And best of all, it exceeded my expectations. Now I look forward to the next!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2009
If you are looking for something that will entertain, intrigue and even educate you, this is your book. You can dissect the novel if you want to find multiple layers of symbolism and methaphore, or learn about the social climate of Montreal at the turn of the 20th century. In any case, it is well-written, engaging and just a plain old good story about a woman who is fueled by a passion for medicine and a consuming need for her absent father. No matter what your motivation, The Heart Specialist won't disappoint and you will have a lingering appreciation for the accomplishments of a remarkable woman.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2009
Based on the life of Dr. Maude Abbot, one of Montreal's first female doctors in the early 1900s, this is a captivating story about a young woman drawn to the unladylike professions of science and medicine. As a means of connecting with the father who left her as a child, she follows in his footsteps and in the process, leads the way for other women to follow.

Author Claire Holden Rothman writes a compelling story that captures the history of WWI and a time when women were only laughingly considered worthy of higher education in the sciences. In her fist novel, she manages to take a story that could easily become dry and overburdened with historical fact and weaves a heartfelt tale of a woman struggling for independence as she searches for her father, the man whom she worshiped as a child and who is at the centre of all her decisions and actions.

Selected as a Giller Prize candidate, this is a fascinating account that offers everything a reader could ever want in a novel: murder, travel, history, mystery and love. How could one small woman have lived a life so large?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2011
The Heart Specialist is the story of Agnes White, based on a real historical figure by the name of Dr. Maude Abbot, one of the first women to graduate from Montreal's McGill University with a degree, and one of the first women to become a medical doctor. Based on facts, the story gives readers more than just a glimpse of what the main character had to overcome in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Women didn't have the right to vote yet. At the university, only the arts department had their doors opened to women. Abbot/White had to go elsewhere to earn a doctoral degree in medicine. She became an expert in congenital heart disease.

Agnes White's father is largely absent in her life and she strives to find him. He was/is also a doctor. She finds solace in her work, labelling and categorizing her father's work, or more like her father's legacy. Agnes earns a place among men and she finds love in an unexpected place despite losing many of the people she holds dearest in one way or another.

Rothman conveys in a superb manner Agnes' feelings of being in no man's land. I like Agnes and I felt like cheering her on. I also like Jakob Hertzlich, her assistant, especially later on in the story; at first, he appeared snobbish (but only slightly, and with good reason). This book is well written and it is true to the times and settings of the story.

The Heart Specialist is one of the best literary novel I've read thus far. Even after I was done reading it, I was left to ponder about it. It's an enjoyable read with believable characters (although a particular part at the beginning might not be suitable for the faint of heart). It's a book with a grand message about humanity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2010
This book was quite enjoyable, gives the flavour and feeling of 1890 to 1900 Montreal. It was a bit 'draggy' in the middle but I enjoyed it very much in the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2010
Claire Holden Rothman is clearly a gifted story teller, and Agnes is a character I won't soon forget. I LOVED this book - right up there with Jane Eyre. Every woman should read this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book began with an interesting premise of historical significance but disappointed when Maude's infatuation began to take centre stage and her struggles with her education and work were skimmed. Also, we end up knowing way too much about her organization skills and very little about her medical knowledge. I can't say I enjoyed it and am surprised by the glowing ratings.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2009
The book totally captured my interest and I was unable to put it down. This is historically placed novel about a young woman trying to become a doctor during difficult times both from a feminist point of view and war times.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2009
This book is delightful right from the start. We follow the story of Agnes White, from her childhood to womanhood, as she discovers where she belongs and how she differs from the rest of women in society. She's socially awkward, but still manage to make her way.

Set in Quebec and written by a Montreal teacher, this novel is a must-read. A real pleasure!
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