Dr. Haggard's Disease

Dr. Haggard's Disease



The Pequod Review:

When Dr. Haggard's Disease begins, we are introduced to Dr. Edward Haggard, a talented and respected surgeon who lives in a remote cliffside manor. We learn he had a love affair decades ago with a woman named Fanny Vaughan, the wife of a colleague — a tragic affair that resulted in a violent confrontation and caused Haggard to become addicted to painkillers and lose his prestigious job. Meanwhile, Fanny developed nephritis and died prematurely. Now, in the present day, Fanny's son James Vaughn has shown up to Dr. Haggard's office, and he bears an unusual resemblance to Fanny herself. The story becomes one of obsession, as Dr. Haggard describes to James his love affair with Fanny, a story that culminates in a truly shocking conclusion (one that a review should reveal). And Patrick McGrath is a detailed writer with rich observations:

I was not yet to enjoy the luxury of a simple melancholy, not yet to know resignation, and the ability to recall the loved one’s memory with tenderness rather than pain.


The front door, four or five steps up from the pavement, behind high spiked iron railings, was inset with a panel of stained glass and opened into a dark hallway dominated by a sideboard like a catafalque.

Parts of the story drag at times as McGrath somewhat transparently withholds information from the reader. And the way Dr. Haggard addresses Vaughn as "you" for the entire book is sometimes awkward and unnatural. But it is a frightening story, with a resolution that makes it all worthwhile.