The Doctor of Aleppo by Dan Mayland
Blackstone, 2020. Hardcover, 450 pages.
Set amidst the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2012, The Doctor of Aleppo attempts to bring home this story to readers of fiction. While I’ve cataloged numerous nonfiction books at work on this event, this is the first novel I have come across. The novel opens with direct action as the readers will see how a protest leads the novel’s namesake doctor, Dr. Sami Hasan, to make a choice to help a relative or protect his government job. Sami must then do his best to balance the two priorities moving forward since his wife’s family is deeply involved with the protesting.
Also featured in the novel is Syrian-American Hannah Johnson and her Swedish boyfriend Oskar Lang. Both arrived in the country to work with the government to build a park. However, when the pair finds themselves at a protest, their lives quickly change and Hannah finds his dual-citizenship to be both a blessing and a burden as the protests grow into revolution.
With it’s more recent setting, The Doctor of Aleppo is not quite yet historical fiction. That said, like historical fiction, it places the reader right into the action of the war. Readers will finish the novel knowing what it was like to be in the middle of that civil war as a common person, down to the most gritty details. Full, uncensored descriptions are given to what it is like to experience tear gas or being under gunfire. Frustrations and anger of the people shows through in numerous ways. Likely, Mayland is helped in these descriptions due to interviews of people who were there and due to a visit he made to the country as part of his research process.
This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the author and publisher.