Book: The Emperor of All Maladies

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Rating: 4.5/5

The Emperor of All Maladies-Siddhartha Mukherjee

Cancer. A word that can send chills down even the heartiest of spirits. Because it is a very real threat. Cancer has become synonymous with death and lost causes, more so than AIDS because one doesn't know what causes it. Yet, the average person still knows very little about it. Until today. Siddhartha treats this disease like biographers would their enigmatic, distant subjects. Tracing its origins from the beginning of recorded time, down to the modern day, he paints a picture of a hitherto unknown foe with a masterful brush. Breaking apart the monolithic entity of the various and diverse diseases that we label as one, the author chronicles the journey of mankinds introduction to and struggle against this scourge. From the grim resignation of the greatest healer of Ancient Egypt; to the hysteric, frustrated struggle of a beautiful queen of Ancient Persia; to the travails of a modern-day soccer-mom; the story-teller weaves his tale. It is as much a journey of learning as it is a story of battles, of struggle and of death. The author takes us along in his quest to unravel the mystery behind one of the most sinister, and merciless diseases of the modern day.

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Social/Historical context:

The book deals with cancer: its historical origins, causes, development and progress of treatment. The author examines the impact of the disease as well as how it impacts, as well as how it is itself impacted, by our lifestyle.

Writing Style:

The language is lucid and easy to follow. The hand that holds the scalpel also manages the pen masterfully. Even while describing complex medical or statistical procedures, Siddhartha manages to restrain himself from employing unnecessary jargon or seeming overtly pedantic. What is also his greatest success as an author is that he manages to explain topics of great import and intricacy without resorting to crude metaphors or ever undermining the conceptual integrity.

My Thoughts:

Amazing. Gripping and fear-inducing. The author manages to delve deep into the psyche of humanity as a whole and hold up a mirror to our faces. Who are we? Why are we? Why do we react like we do? From a sociological perspective as well as a medical, one can trace the impact of cancer in all levels, through all ages of civilization. Deeply insightful, informative and an extremely pleasurable read.

Book Reviewed by Sayan Mukherjee

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