Book Review: Cruise Ship SOS, The Life-Saving Adventures of a Doctor at Sea By MacFarlane

I promised myself I would stop reading non-fiction/medical memoir style books but I have wanted to read this for a long time. Saw it in the library and it called to me. I couldn’t help it. I am kicking myself for it.

After a year doing repatriation, Dr Ben MacFarlane is getting on board a ship and heading around the world. Dealing with everything from old ladies who just need some companionship to elderly terminally ill men making one final journey to honour his fallen comrades, Ben deals with everything. Mental health issues to broken bones, drunks ripping chunks out of each other to falls from bar stools, Ben’s life is never boring and there always seems to be something for him to do, along with a fellow doctor and three nurses, on board and on shore.

Written with the help of a ghost writer, Neil Simpson, this is a very entertaining read, split into different sections of a world voyage, starting and ending in Southampton. The book reads more like a novel than a memoir (Ben’s intention according to his author’s note at the end) and presents a fascinating inside view of what happens in the crew part of the ship which most people will never see. Ben presents a wide range of passengers, medical problems and incidents. Some parts are touching, others are laugh out loud funny and it is always holding the readers attention.

Despite the narrative being excellent, its technical elements that have let it down I feel. MacFarlane and Simpson seem fond of breaking incidents into different sections, as though moving from one point in time to another and it confused me. The section breaks were unneeded and a little rewriting would have eliminated these issues I feel. There were also issues where small amounts of time and ports were skipped over and the story moved on to another place. Whilst this might be a tad picky and there were no stories to tell for those ports, it seemed a little odd and I just felt like I was missing something. Might sound daft but I did feel this way.

I did like this book, very much enjoyed it, as evidence by the fact that I read it in just a couple of days. There is not an over abundance of medical terminology which would make the story easily read for someone who is not medically inclined. Despite the slight issues with skipping and funny section breaks, it is easily read and I would recommend it for summer reading, either on holiday or at home.


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