Review: Going Under by Sonia Henry


Title: Going Under

Author: Sonia Henry

Published: September 2nd 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

In January of 2017, Dr. Sonia Henry anonymously submitted an article to KevinMD regarding the recent suicides of two junior doctors, and how the culture of medical training likely contributed to their deaths. After going viral, the article sparked a long overdue conversation about the problems within the current system.

Hilarious, shocking, sexy and thought-provoking, Going Under is a novel that explores the issues Henry raised in her article through the experiences of Dr. Katarina (Kitty) Holliday, during her first year as an intern in a Sydney public hospital.

Having completed her medical degree, Kitty is excited to begin her first rotation in neurosurgery but within days she is rethinking her choice of career. While the low pay, long hours and intense pressure is expected, the general lack of guidance, and outright bullying from her immediate supervisors is not.

Told in the first person, I had to keep reminding myself that Going Under is not a memoir, but If even half of what Kitty endures, especially from the ‘Joker’ and the ‘Smiling Assassin’ , accurately reflects the workplace conditions in Australian hospitals, it’s clear that change is essential. Being a junior doctor is a challenging, tiring, and often thankless job, and Kitty and her colleagues, are too often pushed to the edge, some over it.

Kitty is brutally honest about her experiences, both in her professional and personal life. There is the satisfaction of saving a patient, the fear of failing one, her inappropriate crush on a senior doctor, and a missed connection with the man with whom she may be in love. Her character is so authentic and relatable in detailing both her thoughts and emotions, I’m really curious as to just how much of Kitty is Henry herself.

To stay sane, Kitty relies on her best friends, two of who are exhausted junior doctors like her, the third a lawyer. They all certainly live up to the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos, and there is a fair amount of drinking, drug taking, and the occasional unwise decision. But their friendship makes all the difference in their struggle to stop from going under.

A provocative and insightful novel, I thought Going Under was a great read, and an important story that needs telling.

“Doctors worry constantly about patients surviving. We fear death and suffering and blame. Our own survival seems unimportant by comparison. The doctor saves the baby, or doesn’t. Who saves the doctor?”


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