Do No Harm

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Do No Harm, by Carol Topolski, Fig Tree, RRP£12.99, 336 pages

A practising psychotherapist, Carol Topolski treats her characters like her patients – psychoanalysing them.

Dr Virginia Denham suffers from hallucinations and extreme eating habits, classic symptoms of schizophrenia that are only understood by digging up her childhood as an unloved and unwanted child. Jumping between Virginia’s grim youth and the outward success of her career as a gynaecologist, Topolski shows how the present is bound to the past in a study of corruption and of how the doctor might simultaneously heal and mutilate the patient.

Topolski’s overpopulated narrative drifts between first-person narrators, the author unable to resist fashioning yet another psyche. She often captures, aptly, the motives behind human action; yet as the author moves from one character to the next in a narrative that sprawls between hackneyed war diaries and spectacles of bondage, the tale of suspense, paradoxically, leaves the reader weary.

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