The Lady Doctor by Ian Williams
I just couldn’t resist this graphic novel about Dr Lois Pritchard, a GP who splits her work between a health centre and the local genitourinary medicine clinic in Wales. It’s actually a follow-up to Williams’s debut The Bad Doctor, which Myriad published in 2014. The Bad Doctor followed one of the other members of the practice where Lois works, and I’d now love to read that too.
Williams is a doctor too, but also studied medical humanities and fine art alongside medicine. He kept up a side career as an artist whilst working as a doctor in general practice, and started creating comic strips in the mid-noughties. Once I saw his drawing style in this book, I realised I’d seen his work before in The Guardian – he created their Sick Notes column.
Dr Lois is a dedicated doctor, she’s forty, childless, and ‘not good at relationships’ although not short of admirers. Robert, the practice boss is trying to persuade Lois to become a partner, but that could be a commitment too far for Lois. Robert is also worried that her biological clock will go ping. Iwan (The Bad Doctor) doesn’t think she’s ‘the maternal type.’ Meanwhile Lois carries on doctoring, putting up with a tricky methadone addict, dealing with all kinds of down below problems at the GUM clinic (some of which are hilarious and not for children!), and dealing with all the problems her patients bring her. From an ingrowing toe-nail to severe depression, home visits Lois sees it all, but does manage to fit in plenty of cups of tea. Williams shows us this in a series of collages full of small illustrations of patients (right).
But doctors have home lives too. In between her work at the surgery (always in blue backgrounds) and the clinic (a pinky mauve) are nights out with her best friend Geeta (olive), visits to her late father’s partner (pink), at home with her dog Potkin (green), out on a date (purple) etc. Williams colour-codes the backgrounds of all her activities.
Then her mother comes back into her life. They had been estranged, but now she wants to make up; she needs a liver transplant, and would Lois become a live donor for her? Lois is faced with difficult decisions.
To tell you any more about the overall story arc would spoil the humour and drama of this rather fabulous book. Williams builds in some slick jokes and set pieces, but doesn’t shy away from comment on current medical issues. Lois has her failings, she smokes and probably drinks too much, but she is a great doctor looking after her patients. You feel she needs someone to look after her though.
Williams’s drawing style is bold and mostly monochrome with the added highlights in the background. His pen strokes may be strong, but they don’t lack in detail – you can tell what every character is thinking from their eyes and mouths for instance.
Although laugh out loud in places with some adult humour, The Lady Doctor is a gentle, thought-provoking book that shows great respect for doctors and their work. If you enjoy Posy Simmonds’s work, you’d certainly love this, it’s super. See Rebecca’s review too.
Source: Review copy – thank you to Myriad. Format: Large flapped softback, 224 pages. Buy from Amazon UK below (affiliate link).