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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Doc (the latest by Mary Doria Russell)

by Mary Doria Russell
416 pages

About The Book

Using the best historical documentation available, Mary Doria Russell brings to life John Henry Holliday, the man behind the overblown myth of Wild West gunslinger Doc Holliday.  From his childhood in antebellum Georgia and his dental education in the North through his diagnosis of tuberculosis and his move West, the reader learns about the real John - the talented dentist who above all things loved his mother. If you think you know Doc, you've got another thing coming!

Why I Read It

First off, it's by Mary Doria Russell. I would read a GROCERY LIST if that woman wrote it! Seriously, she is the author of some of the best books I've ever read: The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace.

Second, it's Doc Holliday! Who doesn't love Doc Holliday?! Especially when played by Val Kilmer in Tombstone:

My Thoughts

This book was not exactly what I expected but once I got past that I really and truly loved it. I thought I'd see Doc's adventures in Tombstone told from a new perspective; when the book ended prior to that I was a bit shocked. So just know up front that the OK Corral and the whole Tombstone story aren't included, and you'll be fine.

Otherwise, LOVED this book. As always, Russell's writing is gorgeous and she sucked me into the story from the very beginning. She doesn't just tell Doc's story in straight narrative format. Rather she adds in asides from time to time that touch on later events or the myths that grew up about them. Imagine someone telling you a story and occasionally interrupting himself to throw in a related bit of info - it's like that. I found it fascinating, and it didn't pull me out of the story in any way.

One of the things that always troubles me about historical fiction is this: how much of the story is true? Russell addresses that in the front of the book with an extensive character list and in the back with a detailed authors note (which I read before starting the actual book). The character list shows actual historical figures in regular print and any fictional characters in italics; very few characters are italicized. The author's note explains what liberties Russell took with the story and where she stayed with historical fact. Basically what she did was create a fictional character who knew Doc and the Earps and she killed that character off. The investigation into his death allows Russell to bring in real historical figures and events and show who Doc really was.

As I said, I really and truly loved this book. I recently expressed disappointment in another book dealing with the Earps and Doc Holliday - comparing that one to this book shows what a brilliant author like Russell can really do.

Oh, and I definitely heard Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday in my head as I read this book - what a treat!

Your Thoughts

Are there any authors who are to you like Mary Doria Russell is to me?


Andi said...

I'm one of a few who still haven't read any of Russell's work. I intend to read The Sparrow first, but this sounds like a fascinating book to read a little later. :)

Amy said...

Russell in new to me, but I'll absolutely read this one. I love historical fiction. When I think of Doc Holiday I automatically think of Tombstone where Val Kilmer did such an awesome job playing him! Great reveiw and thanks for posting!!!

Anne said...

I really liked this book too. The Doc shown in this book is totally different from the Doc I had imagined through different references in movies, TV and books. I was very impressed with Russell's book and am looking forward to reading her other novels in the future.

Kailana said...

I have only read one book by Russell and that was a while ago. I must get back to her... I am glad this is worth reading!

Heather J. said...

Andi - Definitely start with THE SPARROW - it will blow your mind!

Amy - I am totally in the mood to watch Tombstone after reading this one.

Anne - So glad to see someone else who has read and enjoyed it. The Doc in this book was absolutely fascinating to me, and new in so many ways.

Kailana - Definitely do! This was a great one.

Cori (Let's Eat Grandpa) said...

"First off, it's by Mary Doria Russell. I would read a GROCERY LIST if that woman wrote it!" <--YES! Me too. I love everything I've ever read by her, including Doc. I thought it was such a well-done portrait of Doc Holliday. So when you ask if there are any authors who are to me like Mary Doria Russell is to you...I enthusiastically say MARY DORIA RUSSELL! :)

wordsandpeace said...

Yes, same thing here for Russell! and i've read all her books, I believe. I also read everything published by Barbara Kingsolver, though admitting that Russell's quality of writing is superior to my opinion. here is my "double review" of Doc:
Emma @ Words And Peace

Heather J. said...

Cori & wordsandpeace - Yay! I'm always so excited to find other MDR fans. It seems like so many people have never read her books!

SuziQoregon said...

I have Russell on my TBR list but haven't actually read any of her books yet. This one definitely intrigues me.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

I know you think highly of Russell, as I've read your reviews of her books in the past. I happen to have all of her books (that you mentioned)...well, except this one. I have had my eye on it and now I know it's a must-have. Tombstone is one of my favorite movies and it's mainly because of Kilmer's portrayal of Doc. Wasn't he awesome?!

I'm going to have to make it a point to read at least one of her books very soon. At least, in the new year for sure!

Nice review!

Heather J. said...

SuziQoregon - She is a fabulous writer - you won't regret picking up one of her books.

Michelle - Yeah, you're probably tired of me raving about her! LOL But if you like Val Kilmer in Tombstone they maybe you'll really like this book even though Doc is a bit different here. Like I said, I could hear Val Kilmer's voice the whole time I read. :)

Ryan said...

Thanks for the review. I think I'll add this one to my wishlist.

Marie said...

sounds like another winner from a very popular and beloved author! i'm going to look for this one,too.

Heather J. said...

Ryan - Her writing style worked wonderfully in this book - I hope you like it as much as I did!

Marie - "beloved" is a great word to describe this author

Lezlie said...

Hi, Heather!

My understanding is that she is currently working on a sequel to this book which deals specifically with the OK Corral part of the story. I can't wait to get my hands on it! :-)


Heather J. said...

Lezlie?! Wow, so good to hear from you!!! Hope you're doing well! And that is GREAT news about a possible next book - I'll keep my eyes open for updates about it.

Bybee said...

I so want this book! I love the Latin duel in Tombstone.

"I'm your Huckleberry."

What a performance. Dude should have carried off the Oscar that year.

Heather J. said...

Bybee - The book goes into quite a bit of detail about Doc's and Kate's educational background, and there are a lot of Latin comments between the two of them. :)

stacybuckeye said...

I love Russell. The Sparrow is one of my all-time favorites. I went to hear her speak when she was touring for Dreamers of the Day and she was working on this one. This one looks more interesting than Dreamers of the Day, which I liked, but didn't love.

Heather J. said...

staceybuckeye - Dreamers is her only book that I haven't read - must remedy that!

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