This debut novel by Andrew Miller was a life-saver for me. In the early ’90s I spent a career-five years in severe chronic pain, as a result of a medical procedure, and it took a very long time before I was believed by the medical establishment, as I was dismissed with the glib conclusion that ‘It’s all in his head.’
In this tale of a successful 18th century surgeon born with congenital analgesia (i.e. he cannot feel pain, or pleasure), Miller explores the problem of pain, and its paradoxes, in finely wrought prose. It’s also a great yarn. Like the best historical fiction, it resonates with contemporary times, without being anachronistic. Being written in the present continuous tense helps. Miller has written several more novels since, but none which has such a personal resonance for me.