Book Review: "This Is Going to Hurt" by Adam Kay

Updated on July 3, 2018
Jamie Cahill-Kear profile image

Jamie is an English graduate who studied at Queen Mary University of London. He is a keen reader and book reviewer.

What Is "This Is Going To Hurt" About?

This Is Going To Hurt is a collection of diary entries written by Adam Kay, a former junior doctor who specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology. At different points, the book is both humorous and heartbreaking. The result is an extremely informative page-turner that comes highly recommended.

All books are improved by good weather.
All books are improved by good weather.

The book starts with Kay likening the process of deciding to pursue a career in medicine at the age of sixteenvia one's A-level choicesto an email received in October asking you to choose your meal choice for the office Christmas party. Just as said meal will only be consumed in December, it is only until much later that a young adult will truly know whether medicine was the right choice for them. And yet, they must decide at that early stage. He has a point. People like to use doctors as a sort of scapegoat, passing blame on for any bodily ailments. The reality is that doctors are hard-working people who chose an immensely demanding career at a very young age. Throughout the book, Kay struggles with the implications of these facts and they ultimately inform the decision that constitutes the book's climax.

One cannot help but be drawn in by Kay’s honesty and evident passion. I challenge any reader to finish this book whilst remaining unsympathetic to his cause.

Diving Deeper

What Adam Kay’s book does most successfully is communicate the considerable strain placed on junior doctors without sounding self-indulgent. This ensures the reader likes Kay throughout, including while he focuses on the important political need for more NHS funding. Kay fully draws back the hospital curtain and reveals the gore and emotional toll involved in his line of work. One cannot help but be drawn in by Kay's honesty and evident passion. I challenge any reader to finish this book while remaining unsympathetic to his cause.

Humour plays a large part in our feeling we really know Kay by the end of the memoir. The eyes may be the window to the sole, but humour is at least a peephole.

Kay worked for six years as an obstetrician/ gynecologist. We are told of tragic lows in the labour ward and immense satisfaction each time a baby was delivered in good health. Humour is spread liberally but appropriately throughout, ensuring many of the darker moments are counterbalanced with a kind of gallows humour that keeps the book flowing. Humour plays a large part in our feeling we really know Kay by the end of the memoir. The eyes may be the window to the sole, but humour is at least a peephole. It feels as if laughter’s heat and sorrow’s cold have forged a bond between reader and author. The book is divided into entries that correlate to the different stages of progression for a junior doctor. This process will be alien to most of us and yet will be of common interest, given the universal nature of our reliance on doctors.

And I thought I was a pen hoarder- I bet this guy's the office pen thief.
And I thought I was a pen hoarder- I bet this guy's the office pen thief.

How Is the Book Paced?

This is a common priority for someone looking to buy a book—nobody likes to feel the first half of a book is all build-up. As this book is a collection of true diary entries, the action is paced evenly throughout. Thankfully, real life does not preoccupy itself with traditional narrative structures.

Did You Know?

Kay’s passionate work of advocacy was voted Books Are My Bag reader’s choice 2017

What Makes This Book Unique?

  • This book was written by a comedian with the know-how and wit to personally promote the book. Media appearances and a tie-in comedy tour to promote This Is Going to Hurt have been very successful. So if you really enjoy this book and are hungry for more, you can always go and see Kay perform a show based on it- this is unusual for a book written by a doctor!
  • Kay worked in a specialism that has been relatively untouched by the sub-genre of amusing doctor books. While most are written by GP's or those specialising in more oft-discussed branches of medicine, here we have an intelligent take on a less explored topic.
  • Kay is an unusually young doctor to publish such a book. Due to the frank and sometimes jaded nature of these sorts of accounts, they tend to be written by older doctors. As such, Kay’s work has a verve and level of political engagement that at times surpasses the previous standard set by published doctors. These books are also normally written by older doctors as only they have usually had enough time to amass the required quantity of stories. The rare publishing opportunity represented by this book was possible thanks to Kay’s meticulous diary keeping.
  • Finally, given Kay is now a comedian the book’s humour is especially refined.

Failing good weather, this'll have to do.
Failing good weather, this'll have to do.

Who Will Enjoy This Book?

You may enjoy this book if you:

  • Have worked in the medical profession. To go further, those who have worked in a hospital in any capacity will no doubt find Kay to be a kindred spirit and will likely nod, cry and laugh in recognition as they relive his experience. In this sense, this book is likely to be equal parts cathartic and amusing.
  • Are a parent. Anyone who has brought a child into the world will find the book resonates particularly deeply with them. They may even find themselves nodding sagely as Kay describes some of the more messy elements of the process.
  • Are looking to become a parent. In spite of some stories of things not going to plan, on the whole, future parents will find this book reassuring. Kay's abundant expertise and passion radiate from every page and one would feel assured by the prospect of future treatment by someone even half as dedicated.
  • Were born. In all seriousness, even if you never want anything to do with children, you owe it to mothers everywhere to not be ignorant of the important process that brought you into this world. If there is one topic that's relevant to everyone, it's this.

Final Verdict:

This unique book is tremendously informative, has a huge heart and is on-the-money funny throughout. If you would like to buy This is Going To Hurt, you can do so on Amazon here.

About Adam Kay, author of This Is Going To Hurt:

Kay was born in 1980 and after completing his studies, worked as a junior doctor until 2010. He now works as a comedy writer, author and comedian. He was voted one of Pink New's top 50 influential LGBT Twitter users.

© 2018 Jamie Cahill-Kearns


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    • JR Cuevas profile image


      2 years ago from Philippines

      Nice review. Looking forward to reading this book.


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