The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Adam Kay was a well-recognised comedian prior to his publication of his first memoir, This is Going to Hurt. In this memorable collection of diary entries, Kay draws on his experiences as a junior doctor to recount some of the funniest cases of his medical career – including a strangely-high number of ‘object-stuck-in-bodily-orifice’ situations – as well as some of the most heart-wrenching stories, culminating in an explanation of why he left the profession after six dedicated years. The book was and is a roaring success for readers, and not just in the UK.
I first read this memoir in June 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It hit hard then, as the title promised, but it took on a whole new level of significance when I revisited it in February of this year. Every reread affirms the sheer quality of Kay’s writing – his prose ranges from witty and dry to eloquent and poignant when needed. I have noticed that the handful of negative reception Kay has received for this memoir is regularly from non-British readers, whose senses of humour differ greatly from Kay’s distinctly-British approach. Personally, not a single joke failed to land with me; though the way in which Kay positions sensitive chapters next to crude chapters may be jarring for some, I felt that the abrupt comic relief following emotionally-difficult stories was welcomed.
The Goodreads reviews for Kay’s work well-summarise my own thoughts:
- ‘It is rare to find a book that can make you laugh and cry in equal measure.’ – Emily May
- ‘I learned more about giving birth than I ever EVER wanted to.’ – Sonja Arlow
- ‘Told with a liberal dose of sarcasm and self-deprecating humour, the author manages to walk that tightrope between friend, colleague and reliable narrator to a finely tuned ‘T’.’ – Sara
- ‘I highly recommend this book, and wish it could be dished out as prescribed reading (if you’ll pardon the pun).’ – Jack Edwards
“So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.”
We all like to think that we value and respect the NHS; it is established fact that we are incredibly lucky for our healthcare system, especially in comparison to countries with privatised ones like the US. And yet, reading these diary entries was a complete eye-opener. Sadly, it is true that as much as we like to preach our ‘wokeness’, we take our healthcare superheroes hugely for granted. In fact, not matter how many accounts like Kay’s we read and interviews we watch and documentaries we tune into, we will never be able to truly understand the equal-parts gratifying and traumatic roles that medical professions on the frontline willingly take on. In today’s world, as we continue to suffer the disastrous effects of COVID-19, our incredible NHS system has become all the more integral to our lives.
This memoir remains one of the first books I recommend to those looking to get into the non-fiction genre, and one of my favourite audiobooks of all time – it is narrated by Adam Kay himself, and his background in comedy certainly shines through in his brilliant deadpan during his more comical anecdotes. If this is one of those recommendations you continually receive but haven’t yet gotten around to, I highly urge you to do so ASAP. And, given the current holiday season, I also highly recommend his subsequent memoir, Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas, where he dives back into his junior doctor diaries one more time for 25 more shocking tales specific to his experience during the holiday period.