Book #40

The Rack by A.E. Ellis

Paul Davenant, has arrived at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps with hopes of a full cure and a normal life. But as the weeks and months pass interminably by, he undergoes endless tests and medical procedures, each more horrific and dehumanizing than the last, all the while facing the possibility that his case may be hopeless. Despite the pain, indignity, and tediousness, Davenant never loses sight of the outrageous, farcical side to his situation, the absurdity of it all. And when he falls in love with a fellow patient, he becomes determined to recover his health.

Drawing on his own experiences within sanatoriums, Ellis delivers us a macabre and unsettling account of tuberculosis treatment in the years following WWII.

The book was agonising for me in a variety of ways. Our protagonist suffers a multitude of treatments which made my teeth clench - the experimental nature of which was enough to make me feel sick. There’s little to no hope, the feeling of isolation ripped through the pages until it instilled claustrophobia, the density of the text, the sheer length of the thing, everything contributed to me feeling as Paul would’ve felt - trapped, helpless, and desperate to escape.

Although I feel this is an important account of the treatment of tuberculosis after the war, this story is something to enter into with hesitant resolve - so very bleak, and seemingly unending, it will hold your mind in its hands for quite some time afterwards.