Publication Date – 8 January 2019
From world-renowned, best-selling author Danielle Steel comes this powerful dramatic novel that examines the highs and lows of being a top surgeon in the modern world.
Bill Browning, Stephanie Lawrence, Wendy Jones and Tom Wylie are four of the world’s leading trauma surgeons, all living in San Francisco. Each of these surgeons’ professional lives is near perfect, however their personal lives are a mess. Bill is all by himself, since his ex-wife and daughters are living in London, and he immerses himself in his work while desperately missing his children. Stephanie constantly puts her work above her family, barely seeing her young children and frustrating her stay-at-home husband. Wendy’s life outside work is defined by her relationship with her married colleague, and is constantly frustrated by his indifference to their relationship and his reluctance to end his marriage. Tom, an over-the-top womaniser, is the only one satisfied with his life, but deep down he knows his life lacks connections as he refuses to let anyone to get close to him.
Tragic circumstances in two separate cities will have unexpected impacts on the lives of all four of these surgeons. Following a terrorist attack in Paris and a devastating fire in San Francisco, both cities’ respective governments organise a multi-week exchange of trauma surgeons in order to help both cities learn from each other’s experiences. Bill, Stephanie, Wendy and Tom are each chosen by their respective hospitals to represent the San Francisco delegation and travel to Paris, leaving their lives at home behind.
Once in Paris the American surgeons find a deep friendship and camaraderie with each other and the French team, as they have the chance to socialise with those rare people who understand the personal challenges their medical careers can cause. As the San Francisco teams learn about the French medical and emergency response system, another terrible act of violence hits the people of Paris. As both the American and French teams deal with the consequences of these horrific actions, these surgeons find their lives impacted in unexpected ways. How will these events change them, and how will they impact those around them?
Danielle Steel is one of those authors that really does not need an introduction. With over 150 books to her name since her 1973 debut, Steel is the undisputed master of the romance and drama novel. Interesting fact for the day: Steel is actually the fourth best-selling fiction author of all time, coming in only behind William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and Barbara Cartland, making her the top best-selling author alive today. Turning Point is Steel’s first release of 2019, and she has an additional five books planned for the rest of the year.
I have to admit that this is not the usual sort of book I would check out, and Danielle Steel is not an author I would usually go for. I much prefer novels with a lot more action, violence or comedy than romance or intense drama. However, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for medical fiction, and I thought that the summary of Turning Point sounded fairly compelling. I also thought that looking into Turning Point would be an interesting change of pace for me, so in the name of broadening my horizons and mixing up my reviews, I decided to check it out. I have to say I did get into this amazing story, and enjoyed the dramatic narrative that unfolded within it.
There was a little less medical stuff in this book than I would have liked, but there was more than enough to get me into Turning Point’s story. There are no in-depth surgical scenes, but the author does a fantastic job of describing the aftermath of catastrophic events and how hospitals and medical professionals deal with triaging patients. What I enjoyed most about the medical parts of this book are the author’s examination of the personal difficulties that surgeons experience as a result of their work. All of the characters have stunted or damaged social and family lives because of the huge strain their chosen profession takes and the long hours they have to work. This is particularly true for the characters of Bill and Stephanie, who have children and families, and are forced to deal with having to choose between their dream careers that they have spent their entire life working towards and their families. Steel mainly focuses on Stephanie for this, as Bill’s wife left him years before the events of Turning Point. Throughout the book, Stephanie’s husband is constantly making her feel guilty for working while he is left at home with the children, and this puts significant strain on their relationship. The sexism angle of this was also explored, as Stephanie’s husband, parents and mother-in-law are all very unsupportive of her role and seemed to think she should be with her children, despite Stephanie providing a very reasonable argument that her mother never complained about her father’s similar medical career. While the examination of the familiar strains of these characters’ surgical careers is a particular focus, the other social impacts of their work is also explored, and I found it fascinating how most of them could only open up to people in a similar line of work and who could understand what they were going through.
The plot of this book is split between San Francisco and Paris, and Steel fills the book with fantastic descriptions of both cities. Her characters explore and tour through both locations, and the book comes across as a love letter to both cities from the author, who has spent significant periods of time there. While I enjoyed both of these descriptions, I found the comparison of both cities’ emergency response protocols and the roles of their doctors and emergency services to be the most interesting parts of these settings. The differences between how these two major cities deal with devastating events is extremely fascinating, and I liked the time that Steel spent exploring them. During the course of the book, Paris is hit with both a terrorist attack and a school shooting, both of which are emblematic of the main catastrophes hitting America and France. It was quite shocking to see the aftermath of one of these events in some detail, but it I appreciated why Steel included them.
While filled with other great elements, at its heart Turning Point is a dramatic story with a number of romances. A large amount of the drama is generated by the elements discussed above, such as the stresses associated with a medical career or the destructive events the characters witness. Relationships break down, people are in conflict with each other and personal revelations lead to life changing decision for all the characters featured in the book. Each of the main characters also gets their own romantic subplots, and I liked how each of them turned out. I was a bit surprised about how much I began to care about each character, but as the reader dives deeper into the book they become more and more involved in their lives. While I did think the all-round happy endings for everyone was a bit predictable, I liked how the drama and romance elements of these books tied into the other parts of the story to create an amazing overall narrative.
While this was not a book I was expecting to get into, I did find myself enjoying Turning Point and the intriguing story contained within it. With some excellent medical inclusions and a deep examination of the high pressure lives of surgeons, this is a fantastic read and one that exceeded my genre expectations.