Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence by Dr Gavin Francis #bookreview and #giveaway @ProfileBooks @ExploreWellcome

Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence is a lovely little book full of wise words about why and how our bodies need to recover following illness. As you may know, I am involved with our local book festival (Portobello Book Festival) and Dr Gavin Francis has been a regular and popular contributor to the festival, most recently telling us about Intensive Care, his book about his experiences as a GP during the pandemic. Thanks to Flora at Profile Books, I have a copy of Recovery to giveaway today – details about how to win a copy later.

About the book

An uplifting account of hope and healing by the author of Adventures in Human Being

When it comes to illness, sometimes the end is just the beginning. Recovery and convalescence are words that exist at the periphery of our lives – until we are forced to contend with what they really mean.

Here, GP and writer Gavin Francis explores how – and why – we get better, revealing the many shapes recovery takes, its shifting history and the frequent failure of our modern lives to make adequate space for it.

Characterised by Francis’s beautiful prose and his view of medicine as ‘the alliance of science and kindness’, Recovery is a book about a journey that most of us never intend to make. Along the way, he unfolds a story of hope, transformation, and the everyday miracle of healing.

My Thoughts

This may be a short book at just over 100 pages but, as I mentioned above, it is full of insight and wisdom.

The book considers what we understand by recovery both now and in the past. Florence Nightingale said that to recover people need “fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet”. Between 1800 and 1914, number of hospitals in UK quadrupled but by contrast, since 1988 hospital bed numbers have halved. Yet a safe place to recover is still essential. Gavin Francis mentions convalescent hospitals including a few which are (or were) in Edinburgh. I remember my Gran being in one such convalescent hospital following a hip operation in the 1980s. Like many grand Victorian buildings, it’s now expensive luxury apartments.

There were a few parts which really stood out to me and this point in particular. In years gone by, those who could afford it travelled to warmer climes to improve their health or went to the seaside to take in the air. That’s not something which is possible for most people these days. Gavin Francis quotes Tolkien who said that reading “acts as a holiday and refreshment. It is splendid for convalescence… It works wonders in some cases.”. I very much approve of that sentiment of course. I think that over the past couple of years many more people have appreciated the power of books to give us a rest from everyday life.

The book is fascinating and perceptive and acknowledges that healing and recovery isn’t just about the physical body but also the mind. “To flourish we have to build in moments of rest and reflection.”. As well as lots of practical advice for recovery, it carries an important message about recognising when you need recovery, bring kind to yourself and allowing yourself time to convalesce.


For your chance to win a copy, click on the Rafflecopter link below for details of how to enter. The giveaway is open until midnight (UK time) on 21st January and I will contact the winner within 24 hours. Your prize will be despatched directly from the publisher. UK entries only please.

Click here to enter the giveaway

About the Author

Gavin Francis is an award-winning writer and doctor, a contributor to the Guardian, Times, New York Review of Books, Granta, and the London Review of Books. Events, reviews and essays are updated at ; twitter news on @gavinfranc; Instagram @islandmapper

Gavin qualified in medicine from Edinburgh in 1999, then spent ten years travelling, visiting all seven continents. He is the author of six books of non-fiction. True North, Travels in Arctic Europe (2008); Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins (2012) which was SMIT Scottish Book of the Year 2013 and shortlisted for the Costa, Ondaatje, Banff, & Saltire Prizes; Adventures in Human Being (2015), which won Saltire Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2015, was the Observer’s Science Book of the Year, and was a winner in the BMA Book Awards; and Shapeshifters: On Medicine & Human Change (2018), which was a book of the year in the Sunday Times and the Scotsman. Island Dreams – Mapping an Obsession (2020) was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year; Intensive Care: a GP, a Community, & a Pandemic was published in January 2021 and describes 18 months as a frontline GP between Edinburgh and Orkney through the Covid-19 pandemic. His books have been translated into 18 languages.

He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners. He lives in Edinburgh, where he also works as a GP.

recovery by gavin francis

4 thoughts on “Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence by Dr Gavin Francis #bookreview and #giveaway @ProfileBooks @ExploreWellcome

  1. I could have done with this book a few weeks ago when I slipped and injured my back and had no choice but to slow down and give myself some time to recover. Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence looks like such an important, timely and accessible book – one that everyone could learn something from.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I came into the middle of a conversation on the radio with Gavin. We had just been saying that nobody expects to convalesce these days, some hospital beds would surely be freed if there were still convalescent homes. Yes we all want to get out of hospital and back home, but resting is unlikely and sea air just a dream. Long Covid is a reminder that some illnesses require a long recovery.

    Liked by 2 people

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