Cover image for The doctor : a novel
The doctor : a novel
Duncker, Patricia, 1951-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
James Miranda Barry
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ecco Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
375 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Previously published as: James Miranda Barry.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



At the turn of the 19th century in England, a young, beautiful Mary Ann Bulkeley gives birth to a redheaded baby girl of uncertain paternity. Before the sensitive tomboy turns ten, the family determines she should be raised and schooled as a boy.

So begins The Doctor, a provocative, illuminating novel based on a true story about a brilliant female physician who is compelled to live as a man under the name James Miranda Barry. Patricia Duncker, the author of Hallucinating Foucault, traces Barry's incredible life over the course of five decades and across three continents, from his cross-dressing child genius days to medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland; from his glorious career as a military surgeon to his adventures as a celebrated duelist and social figure known throughout the world.

During his travels around the Empire, Barry challenged the antiquated medical beliefs of the time, fought off outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever, and dueled reluctantly over a young woman's honor. The Doctor tells Barry's story for the first time, and it is filled with an extraordinary and vivid collection of characters. There's the Venezuelan revolutionary general with an enormous moustache and a poetry addiction. The shabbily eccentric English aristocrat and his serpent look-alike sister. And then there's Alice Jones, the ruthless and gorgeous kitchenmaid--all legs, black curls and ambition--who is the object of Barry's enduring affection.

Barry's accomplishments were many, as were the secrets he guarded. When his mysterious origins are finally revealed, we witness The Doctor's intriguing, anguished finale. This richly inventive and entertaining tale of dark family secrets, adultery, and colonial history is a transforming contemplation on the substance of gender, the power of will, and an unforgettable portrait of a brilliant mind.

Patricia Duncker was born in the West Indies and educated at Oxford and Cambridge. Her novel, Hallucinating Foucault, won Britain's 1996 McKitterick Prize for best first novel. She teaches writing, literature, and feminist theory at the University of Wales, and lives in Wales and France.

Author Notes

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Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A girl-child is born near the turn of the nineteenth century to an artist's model of extraordinary beauty. The child is well loved and protected in an unconventional household containing family, friends, and lovers of her mother. When she reaches the age of 10, it is decided that she will live the rest of her life as a male to do all the things and see the world in a way that no woman of the time is allowed. And so James Miranda Barry comes to be. He begins medical school at 10, becomes a military surgeon posted to various colonial outposts facing poverty, dirt, disease, and the sexual advances of eligible young women. Brilliant, diminutive, and courageous are the descriptions most often given for Dr. Barry. He has the mystery and depth of character required to carry off his dual identity, though some suspect he may be a hermaphrodite. Alice, a servant girl of the household where Barry grew up, famous actress and final companion of Barry, alone knows the complete truth. Dr. Barry is based on an actual person, and although the author takes liberties with dates, she does nothing to compromise her vivid descriptions and accurate recounting of the flavor of a very interesting period in a well-executed, excellent novel. --Danise Hoover

Library Journal Review

Fact-based fiction from the young writer noted for Hallucinating Foucault: a 19th-century tomboy, raised as a male, becomes a famed doctor. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.