Saturday, November 8, 2008

Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain

Kirsten Menger-Anderson

3 out of 5

Told in short little vignettes you are introduced to the Steenwycks, multi-generational family members that have all become doctors and explore the medicine of their times, though each seems to be bordering on mental illness you are drawn into their stories and experiments even though you realize that there is something a little off balance with all of them. From the very first Dr. Olaf Van Shuler in the 1600’s who takes home dead animals to study their brains to phrenology to hysteria to the modern day Dr. Elizabeth Steenwycks and her now desperate research into prions.

The stories bounce from one generation to the next with just a touch of the previous to let you know what direction you are going in. And thank you Kirsten Menger-Anderson for the family tree in the beginning of the book so I could keep everyone straight.

Though there are some very interesting parts of this book, it was just too dull to keep my attention. You could literally skip large parts and still be on track with the story. The wacky-far-out medical beliefs of the day were one thing, but the repetitiveness of mental illness was just too much. By the end you understand the point that the author is trying to make, but for me it just was too long in getting there.

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