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Summary

"Rachel takes the worst life can throw at us and shows us the beauty in it." (Adam Kay, author of This Is Going to Hurt)

Included in Best Books to read in 2021 pieces in the Sunday Times, Guardian, Financial Times, New Stateman, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Evening Standard, The Tablet, Sunday Business Post, Irish Times, iPaper and Stylist Online.

How does it feel to confront a pandemic from the inside, one patient at a time? To bridge the gulf between a perilously unwell patient in quarantine and their distraught family outside? To be uncertain whether the protective equipment you wear fits the science or the size of the government stockpile? To strive your utmost to maintain your humanity even while barricaded behind visors and masks?

Rachel is a palliative care doctor who looked after some of the most gravely unwell patients on the COVID-19 wards of her hospital. Amid the tensions, fatigue and rising death toll, she witnessed the courage of patients and NHS staff alike in conditions of unprecedented adversity. For all the bleakness and fear, she found that moments that could stop you in your tracks abounded. People who rose to their best, upon facing the worst, as a microbe laid waste to the population.

Her new book, Breathtaking, is an unflinching insider's account of medicine in the time of coronavirus. Drawing on testimony from nursing, acute and intensive care colleagues - as well as, crucially, her patients - Clarke argues that this age of contagion has inspired a profound attentiveness to - and gratitude for - what matters most in life.

©2021 Rachel Clarke (P)2021 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"Her words are brimful of love, grace and kindness." (Guardian)

"She writes with a tender, lyrical beauty." (Sunday Times

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Breathtaking is right!

Wow. I've never read (listened) to a book that is quite so brutally honest and heartbreaking as this one. At times almost unbearable to listen to, it had me in floods of tears but I couldn't stop listening and finished it in a day.

I found it to be beautifully written and narrated. I don't think you could tell the terrible tale of the pandemic of 2020 and ongoing (who would have thought we would be locked down again and it could get even worse at the start of 2021?) without some form of a political edge and I'm more than happy with that (although I'm sure some listeners won't be). The raw human stories both touched and terrified me and I'm left with a sense of not only anger and despair, but also sheer gratitude and amazement at the fortitude and professionalism of all the NHS staff doing their best throughout. You all have my admiration. Thank you Rachel, thank you.

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Thank you Rachel Clarke

I couldn’t stop listening to Rachel tell the story of COVID-19 from a frontline worker’s perspective. It was thought provoking and you would have to be made of stone not to have felt the fear, anguish, incredulity, sorrow, love and pride in her words. Every politician and every COVID denier around the world needs to hear this story.

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Literally Breathtaking...

It feels that to hear and understand this story of the NHS is to somehow be able to show respect and gratitude.
The author shares her story in such a measured way. Just amazing. Thank you will never be enough.

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Support

I brought this book this morning to support the doctor who wrote it, I got 20 mins in had to turn it off was in tears, I suggest the government pays the author and sends this to everyone in uk. Hope it wakes folk up who don’t wear mask or social distances. All I can say is god bless the NHS

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Candid, moving, breath-taking

This is the first book I have listened to or read about the NHS in the time of Covid and was completely blown away by it. Rachel Clarke, a doctor in an Oxford hospice, has done all of us a service by writing this gripping, shocking and, if you are a Tory Cabinet minister, damning account of the first few months of the pandemic in the UK. If you have been affected by Covid in any way I urge you to listen to this beautifully written account. (Dr Clark is probably a great physician but if she ever wants to give up the day job, she could make a living with her pen.)

I can only hope that one day the mendacious, cronyistic, self-congratulatory politicos will be held to account for the many ways they mismanaged the crisis and caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands - but who am I kidding?

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A true history

What an emotional and revealing account of the - unfortunately- first - wave of the pandemic And its effect on front line medical staff - thank you Dr Clarke.

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So moving and terrifying

Wonderful book it was over too quickly unlike the pandemic. Highlighting the suffering of NHS workers and families who have lost loved ones from Covid 19. I suspect the update to this book with updated figures will be jaw dropping. I hope we can all work together to help those who have suffered the most

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it literally is Breathtaking

Phenomenal book with insight into how the NHS has coped and dealt with COVID. Thank you NHS!

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Excellent book

Fantastic book, spot on, might need a part II given what happened later in 2020 and 2021 👍👍

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Extraordinary

I do not have the words to review this book. Nothing I could say would do it justice, It is a truly extraordinary work.

3 people found this helpful

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  • A. B
  • 21-03-21

A very caring & worthwhile listen.

Rachel is a genuinely caring Dr who shares her and others experiences about COVID 19 in the UK in the first half of 2021.
Having observed from Australia, I remember also feeling shocked at some of the announcements made by the Govt and the events she mentions in 2020.

And to acknowledge those who’ve been let slip through the cracks from non-covid illnesses.
Illnesses they may have lived through if not for the pandemic.
It is inspiring to hear her talk. I hope a third or fourth wave doesn’t arrive.

It made me realise how important the vaccination is and that we owe it to all our healthcare workers and vulnerable citizens to maximise our vaccination rates to protect them all.