REVIEW: A Woman’s Voice (2021)

A graphic Novel by Aude Mermilliod & Martin Winckler

I was skeptical that this was going to be something I was going to want to read – the plot, setting, and the fact that it’s a medical drama aren’t usually things I go for. I’ve never been a fan of medical dramas on TV (unless you count Scrubs, that was alright), and honestly never even attempted to read anything similar in book form – for me this was a hard sell. Luckily, A Woman’s Voice by Aude Mermilliod and Martin Winckler does not bog itself down with the minutiae of what people think a high-octane medical ward is like, nor does it go overboard workplace affairs or anything. This graphic novel is a somewhat educational look at how Doctors are trained when it comes to treating women focusing on how things should be done vs doctrinal methods that stuffy textbooks tell them to abide by. At first, these differences are put to the test by the two chief protagonists – Jean, a young “by the book” resident learning the ropes and Dr. Karma, a man who is very unorthodox to say the least. He treats women differently and fashions himself “a healer” rather than “a doctor” or “a surgeon” something that initially gets under Jean’s skin.

“Jean is a medical student who’s about to start her final residency rotation in gynecology. But she’d much rather practice surgery than listen to simpering women moan about their problems all day. Plus, this department is headed by the notorious Dr. Karma, renowned throughout the hospital for his stubborn mindset and unorthodox practices. However, in her first week, Jean begins to realize that Dr. Karma’s reputation isn’t fully accurate, and, perhaps, the complexities of women’s stories are worth listening to and respecting. A modern classic of a revolution in women’s medical care, adapted from the bestselling novel by Martin Winckler.”

This book focuses on issues I never thought I would see in a graphic novel – questions of the status of gender in regards to intersex individuals was especially interesting, and becomes one of the main focal points of the book. I honestly have never seen that particular issue talked about too much in any medium, perhaps relating to the way it does not fit nicely into any sort of dialogue relating to gender studies in the United States, which is where I hail from. Rather than treat that issue like some weird abnormality, this book takes care to look at the feeling of individuals and show them that the binary male/female gender classification is likely not as slam dunk as some bigoted individuals would like one to believe. I won’t spoil anything for anyone that wants to read this, but I absolutely loved how this book handled it.

Jean starts out as a wholly unlikable character, one that has seemingly sacrificed everything for her job – even her own love for said job has not escaped the purge. She has become an irritable, overly rational, computer of a person that seemingly hates people. You eventually see that she is like this because she keeps making mistakes in her personal life and pushes people away due to not wanting to deal with issues she has with herself. Once she starts her work at the Gynecological ward, and with Dr. Karma, her hard exterior finally cracks and she starts to warm up little by little. She goes from being ” a Doctor” to “a healer” and her journey is amazing.

This is a very good story and pulled me in emotionally almost instantly. It reminds me a bit of another book from this publisher earlier in the year called The Two Lives of Penelope in that it takes a HEAVY subject such as The Syrian Civil War, or in this case, institutional malpractice in women’s health and dealing with intersex individuals and really just lays it all out there. As a cishet man, I think it’s important to read stuff like this, as women have to deal with men voicing their opinions on their health matters a lot, and more of us need to see stuff like this and be allies before some would let Atwood-esque patriarchal problems arise. While not necessarily my favorite book of the year so far, this is in the top ten at least, and is an instant classic in my opinion.

If you are interested in this book, please click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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