This book was sent to me by Portobello Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
08.02.2018 / Portobello Books / Non Fiction / Paperback / 384pp / 978-1846276125
Target Audience: Non-fiction readers who strive for a better understanding of the world and its many workings. Those interested in medicine, biology, global politics and real world problems.
About Nine Pints
Most humans contain between nine and twelve pints of blood. Here Rose George, who probably contains nine pints, tells nine different stories about the liquid that sustains us, discovering what it reveals about who we are. In Nepal, she meets girls challenging the taboos surrounding menstruation; in the Canadian prairies, she visits a controversial plasma clinic; in Wales she gets a tour of the UK’s only leech farm to learn about the vital role the creatures still play in modern surgery; and in a London hospital she accompanies a medical team revolutionising the way we treat trauma.
Nine Pints reveals the richness and wonder of the potent red fluid that courses around our bodies, unseen but miraculous.
‘For Homer, blood had a power as fierce and invisible as electricity: a mouthful of blood, a switch flicked, and Anticlea could now speak to her son. Of course Homer was awed by blood. There is nothing like it. It is stardust and sea. The iron in our blood comes from the deaths of supernovas, like all the iron on our planet. This bright red liquid – brighter in the arteries, when transporting oxygen around the body from the heart, duller in the veins, when it is not – contains salt and water, like the sea we possibly came from.’
Nine Pints is Rose George’s account of humanity’s current understanding of our precious and irreplaceable (and expensive) life giving liquid: blood. George travels the world to see first hand how much we truly know about blood; both inside and outside of the body. Nine Pints is a journal of the medicine, history and investigations into practices surrounding blood (both revolutionary and demeaning) and our dependence on its importance.
Rose George is a vivid, enthusiastic and bold writer who wants to see progress in every aspect of blood culture. Getting into the science, medicine, politics, different ideaologies, nature, history, racism/sexism and global implications behind our need for blood. From leech farms in wales, the NHSBT and open heart surgery to blood letting, haematology and the ill treatment of menstruating women (I reckon RG could write a whole book on this subject). Rose George explores the people behind the revolutionary jumps in handling blood, breaking taboos and dealing with tragedy. The women (shout out to Janet Maria Vaughan) and men who did everything they could to make blood medicine what it is today.
I was shocked and unsettled at some approaches to blood in the world; RG’s observations stick in my mind and make me wish more than ever for a better world without corruption, sexism and poverty. I was amazed by how complex and intricate blood science has become and where it could take us in the very near future (synthetic blood?). Not only is George factual and informative but she is also personal, worldly and insightful. Taking the time to see the circumstances and the stories behind the statistics. Walking among those affected by limitations, governments and biology when it comes to the blood they need to survive or evolutionary functions people have no control over.
I was expecting to feel squeamish or weirded out when reading about blood but RG did a great job of being admirably descriptive, respectful and honest (not playing up the ‘disturbing’ factor, I bet the disgustologists weren’t happy). George’s almost encyclopedic approach to writing about our understanding of blood culture and medicine is exquisitely overwhelming. The sheer depth and quantity of information is outstanding but too much for one read. This is meant to be read multiple times as there is plenty to glean from returning to this text.
Personally it was too much at once, I almost decided at 40 pages to stop reading as I could feel myself getting overladen with information. I continued as I was enjoying the read but I still stand firm that George’s comprehensive nature might stop a few people in their tracks. That is not to diminish the quality or importance of this read, George has essentially written the most up to date, comprehensive overview of humanity’s understanding and interaction with blood that has been published in recent years. I would go as far as saying that this is the most immersed in blood I have ever been. (That came out wrong…). Blood is miraculous and people do amazing things with it every day.
If you want to understand what has happened, what is happening and what will happen in the future of our use of blood, then I highly recommend reading Nine Pints. Rose George is a thorough and memorable writer who appreciates research as much as she does the human condition. I feel like I understand so much more about the world’s reliance on blood and how we can all participate and commit more to saving the lives of those who need help. You never know when you may need blood to save your life or the life of someone you care about, so giving it is the best way to make sure there is enough to go around.
About Rose George
Rose George is the author of A Life Removed: Hunting for Refuge in the Modern World (long-listed for the Ulysses Reportage Prize), The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste (Portobello, 2008; shortlisted for the BMA Book Prize) and Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Brings You 90% of Everything(Portobello, 2013; winner of a Mountbatten Maritime Award), and Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood (Portobello, 2018). Rose writes frequently for the Guardian, New Statesman and many other publications, and her two TED talks, on sanitation and seafaring, have had 3 million views.