The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

Category: Book
By (author): Fitzharris, Lindsey
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / General
  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Medical
  HISTORY / Military / World War I
  MEDICAL / History
Audience: general/trade
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published: June 2022
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 336
Size: 9.35in x 6.35in x 1.40in
Our Price:
$ 40.00
Availability:
In stock

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

"Enthralling. Harrowing. Heartbreaking. And utterly redemptive. Lindsey Fitzharris hit this one out of the park." -Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile

Lindsey Fitzharris, the award-winning author of The Butchering Art, presents the compelling, true story of a visionary surgeon who rebuilt the faces of the First World War's injured heroes, and in the process ushered in the modern era of plastic surgery.


From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: mankind's military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities. Bodies were battered, gouged, hacked, and gassed. The First World War claimed millions of lives and left millions more wounded and disfigured. In the midst of this brutality, however, there were also those who strove to alleviate suffering. The Facemaker tells the extraordinary story of such an individual: the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who dedicated himself to reconstructing the burned and broken faces of the injured soldiers under his care.

Gillies, a Cambridge-educated New Zealander, became interested in the nascent field of plastic surgery after encountering the human wreckage on the front. Returning to Britain, he established one of the world's first hospitals dedicated entirely to facial reconstruction. There, Gillies assembled a unique group of practitioners whose task was to rebuild what had been torn apart, to re-create what had been destroyed. At a time when losing a limb made a soldier a hero, but losing a face made him a monster to a society largely intolerant of disfigurement, Gillies restored not just the faces of the wounded but also their spirits.

The Facemaker places Gillies's ingenious surgical innovations alongside the dramatic stories of soldiers whose lives were wrecked and repaired. The result is a vivid account of how medicine can be an art, and of what courage and imagination can accomplish in the presence of relentless horror.

Review Quote*

"Absolutely heartbreaking but so inspiring." -Candice Millard

"[An] inspiring, engaging book . . . [Fitzharris] delivers a consistently vivid account of [Harold Gillies's] ingenious techniques . . . An excellent biography of a genuine miracle worker." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A fascinating portrait... Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, this exceptional history showcases how compassion and innovation can help mitigate the terrible wounds of war." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An engaging, at times moving biography . . . The book chronicles, with considerable pathos and sensitivity, the ethics and moral feelings that drove Gillies' work." -Library Journal

"[A] commendable biography . . . Stirring stories of maimed soldiers and the compassionate hospital staff who cared for them enrich the narrative. Fitzharris vividly details mutilated faces and the savagery, suffering, and slaughter of war." -Booklist

"Wow, what a book. Enthralling. Harrowing. Heartbreaking. And utterly redemptive. Lindsey Fitzharris hit this one out of the park." -Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile

"Out of war's most awful wounds, out of gore and terror and pain, Lindsey Fitzharris has-like Sir Harold Gillies himself-crafted something inspiring and downright miraculous. I cannot imagine the sweat and sleuthing and doggedness that went into gathering the details and building the narratives of these men's struggles. This book is riveting. It is gruesome but it is also uplifting. For as much as there is blood and bone and pus in these pages, there is heart. As Fitzharris shows us, the scalpel is mightier than the grenade, and the pen is mightiest of all. What a triumph this book is." -Mary Roach, author of Fuzz and Stiff

"Here is that rare thing: a little-known story of the Great War, featuring a pioneering surgeon every bit as daring as the soldiers he saved. Beautifully written, illuminating, and bursting with fascinating detail, The Facemaker is a groundbreaking work that deserves its own genre: medical noir. You won't be able to put it down." -Karen Abbott, author of The Ghosts of Eden Park

"Like Harold Gillies himself, Lindsey Fitzharris has taken something we might think of as grim and transformed it into something beautiful. Gillies will be an unsung hero no more." -Sam Kean, author of The Icepick Surgeon

"Equal parts devastating and inspiring. The horrors of war are laid bare here, but the stories of each of the soldiers, doctors, nurses, and artists are incredibly poignant and fascinating. I couldn't put it down." -Jenny Lawson, author of Broken (in the Best Possible Way)

Biographical Note

Lindsey Fitzharris is the author of The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, which won the PEN/E. O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing and has been translated into multiple languages. Her TV series The Curious Life and Death of . . . aired on the Smithsonian Channel. She contributes regularly to The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and other notable publications, and holds a doctorate in the History of Science and Medicine from the University of Oxford.