A History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson

Media of A History of the Present IllnessA History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

This book of short stories takes readers through many different aspects of the healthcare and medical situation in the US today, focusing specifically on the San Francisco area. The subjects in Aronson’s stories are fictional, but their stories are based on personal experience and things she witnessed while working in the healthcare profession for years.

What I enjoyed about A History of the Present Illness is that the stories, while told about vastly different kinds of people, different medical issues, and told from widely different points of view, they somehow all fit together. This is a cohesive collection with a clear theme, and Aronson has a definite voice as she’s telling each story. And the writing is really good, so good that a few of these stories I wanted to keep reading based on the writing alone. I was fully invested in almost all of these stories and excited to see what the next one would bring upon finishing each of them.

What I didn’t like, and I think this is my problem, is that I didn’t LOVE each one of these stories, which makes it difficult for me to endorse the entire book. I think I need to take a break from short story collections, to be honest, but I say this knowing full well I’ll be reading this in the very near future. What can sometimes happen to me when reading short story collections is that the stories can sort of run together after a while. So maybe I need to read them more slowly? Take breaks between them? I’m not sure.

But whatever, this is still a really great collection! Aronson manages to create characters that seem real and true in very short periods of time. If you like short stories, or have an interest in the medical field, or just like great writing, I can recommend A History of the Present Illness.

5 thoughts on “A History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson”

  1. This is useful feedback about Aronson’s work, a book I’d not heard of until today. Great title, isn’t it? And I’ve had similar experiences with short story collections, wanting the “fix” of fiction while taking a break from the longer commitment to a novel. Sometimes they do seem to run together, even if written by masterful short story writers. And sometimes a slice-of-life story is followed by what appears to be a novel crammed into 10 pages, with such fast pacing that it’s almost going faster than the reader would like, and therefore throws off sustained interest for following stories. But it really is difficult to write solid short stories, and it seems Aronson has done it well enough to get my attention through your post. Thanks for sharing.

    Damon Ferrell Marbut
    Author, Awake in the Mad World

  2. I think this is probably a very timely book, based on the changes we will all soon be suffering through. It isn’t going to be pretty, I’m afraid. And I think you are right…it is hard to read too many *whatever* in a row, whether it be short stories, non-fiction, women’s fiction, or YA. Things do blend together.

  3. I like medical fiction, and the fact that these are short stories that all deal with a central theme has me very interested. It sounds like these are really well done, and coming from the point of view that the author does, they probably feel really authentic as well. I want to read this one now, and before stopping here today, I had no idea this book was even out there! Fantastic review today, Heather. You made your points wonderfully.

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