The Facemaker

The Facemaker

One Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

Summary

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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. The war caused carnage on an industrial scale, and the nature of trench warfare meant that thousands sustained facial injuries. In The Facemaker, award-winning historian Lindsey Fitzharris tells the true story of the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who dedicated himself to restoring the faces of a brutalized generation.

Gillies, a Cambridge-educated New Zealander, established one of the world's first hospitals dedicated entirely to facial reconstruction. 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 facial differences, Gillies restored not just faces, but identities and 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 and art can merge, and of what courage and imagination can accomplish in the presence of relentless horror.

© Lindsey Fitzharris 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Reviews

  • Sometimes distressing, sometimes thrilling, The Facemaker had me gripped; it is elegantly written and endlessly fascinating. Employing just the right balance between diligent research and ingenious reanimation, Fitzharris brings to life a neglected slice of medical history, telling both Gillies' story as well as that of many of the men whose faces - and lives - he saved
    Laura Freeman, Financial Times

About the author

Lindsey Fitzharris

Lindsey Fitzharris is the author of The Butchering Art, which won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize and the Wolfson History Prize. She received her doctorate in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at the University of Oxford and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Wellcome Institute. She contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American and other notable publications.
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