A Young Doctor's Notebook is a wonderful suite of short stories following a recently graduated doctor as he tackles various medical conditions afflicting the peasants of Russia. That is to say the peasants within his particular domain. Each story is wonderfully sharp and pointed look at the ways in which this particular doctor tackles the issues he is confronted with, each one told from his sardonic and often flabbergasted perspective. There is a hint of irony and humour in how our narrator discusses with himself all the various ways things could go wrong when operating or diagnosing.
In many ways this book serves as an insight into the writer himself. However, moreso, it serves as a poignant way of approaching the whole idea of doubt and insecurity from inexperience. I know that on a personal level I have experienced similar thoughts to those portrayed by Mikhail Bulgakov through his character. My own thoughts have been more linked to teaching and being able to handle a classroom environment, while the doctor's are more linked to 'can I perform this operation outside of a classroom' or 'have I diagnosed correctly?' However, situations aside, one can see how doubts and lack of self-belief are similar issues across careers and lifetimes.
The quote used at the top of this review comes from the final chapter Morphine, which is a diary entry study of a morphine addict. I found that chapter both horrifying and insightfully inspiring. It, to me, revealed the motives behind a deadly addiction: hidden, or buried, pain. In its various ways this final chapter highlighted something I could not quite see in the absurdity of The Master and Margarita as to why Bulgakov is such a great writer.
Whether you are looking for a set of brilliant and connected short story classics to read, or wanting to read something full of thoughtful ideas, I do recommend this. It touched me on a more personal level due to the whole connection between the doctor doubting in his ability and I, myself, at times doubting myself. I have in the past struggled with public speaking. I no longer do so much when I do impromptu, however when I have a planned speech things can be a touch tougher. Either way, I believe as fellow readers you will likely find something in this work to appreciate for yourselves.