Book Review- A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
Book Name: A Country Doctor’s Notebook
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Number of pages: 23
Story in a nutshell: The story begins with Dr. Bomgard who is the narrator in a hospital in Moscow in 1918, recalling the winter of 1917 before receiving a letter from Dr. Polyakov asking for his help owing to a serious illness. Unexpectedly, Dr. Polyakov is admitted to Dr. Bomgard’s hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Still breathing, Dr. Polyakov hands over a notebook to Dr. Bomgard on the verge of death. The diary entries reveal the cause for Dr. Polyakov’s death: Morphine addiction. Dr. Polyakov describes in detail about how he began using small dosage of morphine to relieve himself of back pain and heartbreak. However, he soon loses control over the number of morphine injections he takes as he surrenders to the temporary feeling of euphoria. Suffering from depression, hallucinations, and regurgitation, Dr. Polyakov’s slowly and knowingly descends into delirium and finally succumbs to death. In his final moments of sanity, he writes sown the words ‘This notebook is for Bomgard. That’s all…’
Review: The epistolary narrative employed in the story is intriguing. The frame story, also known as a story within a story, contributes to the suspense in the story. Dr. Bomgard’s story forms the frame/outer narrative and is set in the present whereas Dr. Polyakov’s story constitutes the second/inner narrative and is set in the past. The mystery behind Dr. Polyakov’s death increases the reader’s interest in his letters. Rather than the classic whodunit mystery, the story reveals in the beginning that Dr. Polyakov intentionally killed himself. The reader journeys through Dr. Polyakov’s past to find out why this man ended his own life. Though Dr. Bomgard is the narrator in the story, his publishing of Dr. Polyakov’s original letters enables the reader to know Dr. Polyakov’s personal history including the events leading to his morphine addiction and eventually his death. Dr. Polyakov’s vivid descriptions of his depressed condition and hallucinations intensifies the narrative. The story depicts the history of the Russian Revolution and its effects on Dr. Polyakov’s life.
This review was written by Sai Prasanna. She is a bibliophile still waiting to receive her Hogwarts letter, discover Narnia, wander around Wonderland, and go on an adventure with Gandalf. Cambridge graduate with a specialization in Children’s Literature. Children’s story writer and poet. Presently working as Content Associate writing stories to empower children at Going to School in Delhi.