CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005
Since much of The Mind of Norman Bethune is a collection of Bethune's own writings, it seems only fit to include a portion of them in this review.
Since Bethune practiced medicine in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and in China with the communists as they fought the Japanese invader, the book provides some interesting details about these conflicts. Until recently, because Bethune became a communist, little attention in Canada was paid to his role in these struggles. Readers may be surprised at the primitive medical facilities Bethune had to work with. That he saved the lives of many badly hurt soldiers, who would surely have died otherwise, helps to explain the great regard with which his memory is held in China. He was also very innovative with his scarce resources, a quality the communists appreciated.
While Stewart writes in a rich, polished prose, in this book he lets Bethune tell most of his own story. Much of the written portion of the text is taken from Bethune's correspondence. This gives a personal glimpse not often seen in biographies. It allows readers to see what Bethune was thinking and the problems he faced and to form their own opinions of this complex individual. Since Bethune speaks for himself, much of the book is a primary source, ideal for anyone interested in researching his life.
There are a great many black and white photographs illustrating The Mind of Norman Bethune. Functional, they are spread throughout the book and cover all aspects of Bethune's life. Also included are pages from a catalogue of medical supplies showing instruments designed by Bethune. These help to show just how creative a doctor he was. An unusual feature is the inclusion of part of a mural, The T.B.'s Progress which Bethune painted. It was done on wrapping paper and hung on the walls of a cottage at the sanitarium where he was treated for tuberculosis. There is an index as well.
Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher who lives in North Bay, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.