Pilgrimage

Author: Dr Alan Byron. Athena Press £13.99 ISBN 1-84401-674-9

Pilgrimage centres on the life of a fictional GP, Max Benjamin, and is the debut novel of an actual GP. Dr Benjamin has become increasingly frustrated in general practice, partly because of the antics of the practice’s senior partner, Dr Lew Forbes. As a result, and following a series of coincidental events involving other members of the medical profession and his patients, Dr Benjamin decides to pay a visit to India to ‘discover himself’ through Hindu spirituality and track down his long-lost father in the process.  

Meanwhile, his wife Serena has started to develop persistent headaches and is getting up to antics of her own, leading her down an equally unusual path.  

What I particularly enjoyed were the author’s believable and vivid descriptions of life in general practice. His observations of patients were easy to relate to and his use of metaphors entertaining: ‘Somehow he imagined that during surgery there was an enormous queue of people stretching into the infinite distance in some kind of spiteful circle, wrapped around distorted space. Then, as soon as he finished the last patient off, the first would reappear again with myriad infinitely complex problems.’  

The dialogue between the characters, on the other hand, was not particularly believable, and as a result, they seemed much less human and authentic. This was a shame because the author clearly had a message about life and spirituality that he wanted to convey, and the plot as a whole seemed unusual and held promise, especially for those with an interest in the stories of general practice, human nature and eastern philosophy.  

Pilgrimage entertained and frustrated me in equal measure. It will not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the entertaining insights into general practice made it worth my time reading it.  

Dr Arti Maini is a GP in Middlesex  

What GP readers thought about Pilgrimage:  

Dr R Miah, a GP in County Durham: As a new GP, I identified with Max’s struggle to establish himself as a new partner, and also the enthusiasm and sometimes frustration he felt for general practice.  

Dr Elspeth Wise, a GP in Newcastle: An interesting book about one doctor’s spiritual and medical journey. Born a Jew, but brought up in a Christian environment, Dr Benjamin develops an interest in Hinduism and extends this by travelling to an Ashram in India. His medical journey involves starting his working life as a junior partner waiting for his senior to retire and, later in the story, taking charge of his own medical centre. While overall, I found this an interesting book, I struggled at times with the Hindu terminology. The medical terms used were sufficient for me to feel that, had I not been medically trained, I would have lost my concentration.  

Dr John Middleton, a GP in Loughborough, Leicestershire: An enigmatic book. The author says everything is true except the bits he made up. Unfortunately the character descriptions and dialogue are a bit Mills and Boon, but the story covers an interesting period in general practice before the advent of VTS. I found the Hindu philosophy and detailed description of yoga exercises very interesting. The ‘miracle’ at the end of the book, however, may well be a bridge too far for many readers.  

Dr Luis Dias, a GP in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire: I found this book interesting, if a little verbose. Having said that, however, I think it commendable that GPs are able to indulge their other passions in life, and that is an inspiration to me. 

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