Our Anatomy: A Love Story book review peels apart the layers of this Gothic tale that deals in all matters of the heart.
I picked up this book because it gave me Frankenstein vibes, and while historical fiction is not my go-to genre, I’m a sucker for a female-led science-fiction novel, especially when it’s equal parts gruesome and lovely.
That’s what you’ll find in Anatomy: A Love Story. The title hides a double meaning, because while our intrepid heroine, Hazel, indeed does find love in the book, it’s truly her infatuation with the human body that takes center stage.
Hazel is a young noblewoman who—by society’s standards—should be concerning herself with securing her future by becoming a wife and, eventually, a mother. If she plays her cards right, she could marry a future Viscount. There are countless women who would kill to be in her position.
Yet Hazel is more concerned with freedom than finances. Specifically, she wants the freedom to choose her own future—that of a surgeon. Even in a man’s world, it’s a privileged position that requires years of study and hard work.
Still, she can’t sit idly by while her passions wither and die. After sneaking into a lecture from the famed Dr. Beecham III, her decision is made. Hazel dresses in her brother’s clothes and begins her studies in earnest, knowing that if she’s caught, it could spell disaster for her and her family, as well as her betrothed.
As far as characters go, Hazel is one of the best I’ve read in a while. She’s wildly intelligent and frustrated by the fact that she’ll never get to be a surgeon all because she was born a woman. Although we have many more opportunities than our 19th century counterparts, it’s a struggle that many of us can still relate to, and Hazel’s confidence in her own abilities is inspiring, to say the least.
Although Hazel is a noblewoman born into a comfortable life, she never seems to take it for granted. She cares more about people than power, and it’s this that, at the end of the day, will make her a better doctor than any of her male counterparts. Without hesitation, Hazel opens up her heart and her home to help those no one else will. The men in this story could take a few lessons from her, that’s for sure.
I also loved that Hazel wasn’t squeamish. She often finds herself elbow-deep in fresh cadavers, but it’s her love of science and her drive to help her fellow man that keep her laser-focused on her work. I wasn’t too bothered by the gore in the story, but if you have any triggers related to medical malpractice, I’d suggest maybe passing on this one for now.
As much as I could go on and on about Hazel in this Anatomy: A Love Story book review, this novel isn’t all about her. Enter Jack Currer, a so-called resurrection man. He lives worlds apart from Hazel, working hard to make ends meet and bringing in extra cash by digging up dead bodies and selling them to the Anatomist’s Society to study.
While their first meeting seemed to be fate, it took a while for these two to realize they were on the same side. Hazel’s desire to become a surgeon stole the spotlight, but when the time was right, Jack showed up to help her along the way.
Their relationship is, at first, professional, and then becomes something more. One of my favorite aspects about historical fiction (and particularly the romance subgenre) is the way every look, every word, every subtle touch is a sign of deep, passionate emotions bursting to come forward.
Hazel is quite forthright, and Jack isn’t exactly shy, but these two still walk that careful path that takes them from cautious partners to loyal friends and then to something more. It’s all made even more exciting by the fact that society would not see them together, no matter the truth of their feelings for each other.
In fact, all of the characters in the book feel fully formed, with their own opinions and objectives. Some of them align with Hazel’s, and others decidedly do not. Either way, they all inhabit a world which does not want to see a lady succeed in her scientific endeavors.
While I found Hazel’s struggle to be taken seriously the most fascinating part of the book, Anatomy: A Love Story also provides us with an interesting mystery to solve along the way.
Not only do Jack and Hazel have to avoid being caught—both stealing the dead bodies and studying them—they must also tread carefully because of the Roman Fever. If plots involving a highly contagious plague hit too close to home for you, then I’d suggest waiting until that’s less of a reality before picking up Anatomy.
At the same time, our heroes also discover something beyond the Roman Fever—a world in which body parts are being stolen for who knows what reason. While Hazel has one eye on her texts, she has her other on the people around her, friends and strangers alike, who have gone missing without a trace.
It seems impossible that all of this can fit into one book so easily, and yet Dana Schwartz finds room for it all. With excellent pacing, good character moments, and just enough science and romance to please any fan of this genre, I’d be hard-pressed not to use this Anatomy: A Love Story book review to recommend this novel to those of you looking for something equal parts warm, spooky, and brave.
‘Anatomy: A Love Story’ hit store shelves on January 18, 2022
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