The Strange Case of Dr. Simmonds and Dr. Glas - Dannie Abse

I've been dipping into this strange little book on tube journeys to work and for half an hour most evenings for the past couple of weeks. It's rather strange reading matter for me considering my mum's currently very poorly in hospital! However, I have to say one of the reasons I chose it from my local library was because of the cover - it's a print of Chekov's Chair and it looked so poignant yet spare. Also because it is based on the old classic, Dr. Glas by Soderberg. Not far into the book it went back in time to a doctor, Dr. Simmonds, working in the immediate post-war period. It is set in and around where I live, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage and one of the reasons I have kept reading is my fascination with this particular pocket of London during that time, especially the large numbers of Jewish people who arrived here and how the area changed in often subtle ways. But I have to say that Abse, a Welsh poet and himself a doctor, rather over-eggs it a lot of the time. It's as if he's keen to include all his knowledge/research of this period so that it seems rather too contrived. I would much rather have had less of the historical facts and more of the psychological complexity. A sparer prose would also have helped the tone, which sometimes seems out of kilter with the mood implied of Dr. Simmonds, or simply the mood of the time. I haven't finished yet - not far too go, but, despite my reservations re tone and over-egging the history, it's still a good story - a very good story and one that I recommend.

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