This is one of the best books I have read. Depressing, intense, detailed, thorough, free-flowing and reflective. The book pulls the people from the history of medicine (or sceince itself) into a living narrative putting together pieces of apparently disjunct and inconspicuous and serendipitous events in the lives of cancer patients, researchers, doctors, surgeons, scientists and poets and presents it as as if a coherent story could be made of it and read out over a fireplace. Perhaps one of the few books of this genre that I have read that went so smoothly.
Beginning from early Egyptian references of tumours in the breast that are choicelessly left untouched to the golden era of surgery when the scalpel was wieleded as a panacea for any bodily growth, the book presents a few thousand years of journey towards our romance with the miracles of modern medicine and the eventual disappointment that was to come after.
Doctors often do not write, canning their life experiences into a pressure cooker that is often let off on their wives or their families. If and when they choose to let the steam out as literature (and assuming that they have what it takes), the product is often wonderful. Highly recommended for doctors, highly recommended for patients (past, present and future) and the only reason not to read it would be if it is not published in a language you can read.