There have been many books by surgeons but never one like this. The experiences those books describe are perhaps similar to those in Direct Red, but the telling of them is not. As well as being a surgeon, Gabriel Weston is a writer of extraordinary gifts and we are immensely fortunate to have her voice - calm, compassionate, truthful - telling us what it is like to stand in an operating theatre holding someone's neck open for seven hours, about the beauty of watching or performing fast, decisive cutting, about what happens when a doctor starts to have feelings about a patient and the line between the personal and the professional begins to blur, about the shame of watching a patient die.
This, you feel, is the truth about what it it's like to be a surgeon in a big-city hospital in the twenty-first century. Mistakes are made, people - especially young women surgeons - are patronised, even abused, doctors fail to hear what patients are trying to tell them - the doctors are not heroes, but flawed human beings doing something rather extraordinary in difficult circumstances. In Gabriel Weston's words it becomes possible to see each of these encounters, these interventions, the triumphs and the catastrophes, with the clarity and empathy of a great short story.