Book Review: The King's Anatomist by Ron Blumenfeld


About The King's Anatomist: 


A revolutionary anatomist, a memory-laden journey, and a shocking discovery.

In 1565 Brussels, the reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche receives shattering news that his lifelong friend, the renowned and controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius, has died on the Greek island of Zante returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jan decides to journey to his friend’s grave to offer his last goodbye.

Jan’s sentimental and arduous journey to Greece with his assistant Marcus is marked by shared memories, recalled letters, and inner dialogues with Andreas, all devices to shed light on Andreas’ development as a scientist, physician, and anatomist. But the journey also gradually uncovers a dark side of Andreas even as Jan yearns for the widow of Vesalius, Anne.

When Jan and Marcus finally arrive on Zante, the story takes a major twist as a disturbing mystery unfolds. Jan and Marcus are forced to take a drastic and risky measure that leads to a shocking discovery. On his return home, Jan learns that Andreas was an unknowing pawn in a standoff between King Philip of Spain, his employer, and Venice. When he arrives home in Brussels, he must finally reckon with his feelings for Anne.



About Ron Blumenfeld: 


 Ron Blumenfeld is a retired pediatrician and health care executive. Ron grew up in the Bronx, New York, and studied at City College of New York before receiving his MD degree from the State University of New York. After completing his pediatrics residency at the University of Arizona, he and his family settled in Connecticut, but Tucson remains their second home. Upon retirement, he became a columnist for his town’s newspaper, a pleasure he surrendered to concentrate on his debut novel, The King’s Anatomist. He enjoys a variety of outdoor sports and hiking. He and his wife Selina currently reside in Connecticut and are fortunate to have their son Daniel and granddaughter Gracelynn nearby.


My Review:


Reviewer’s Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 


The plot in brief: Jan van Den Bossche lives a quiet but interesting life, always in the shadow of his lifelong friend and personal hero, Andreas Vesalius. When word reaches him that his friend has died in far-off Zante, a Greek Island, Jan journeys from Brussels to pay his last respects. Along the arduous route, Jan wrangles with his complex feelings for the friend who pushed him to his limits yet robbed him of the woman he loved. Arriving at his destination, Jan uncovers a mystery which threatens to unravel everything he believes about his friendship with Andreas. 


The Characters: So well drawn are the characters they readily spring to life from the pages of this book. Jan, despite his timidity and dislike of travel, is resolute that he must undertake this personal pilgrimage to his friend's gravesite. Along the way he converses with Andreas in his mind and we come to know the man himself. Andreas is brave and impulsive, determined; he knows what he wants and takes it. One of the hardest things about writing historical fiction is creating believable characters that fit seamlessly into their world and Jan and Andreas are spot on. We see in both men their strengths and weaknesses and the ties that bind them even in death.


The History: Andreas Vesalius was a Flemish anatomist and physician. He is considered the father of modern anatomy. I really enjoyed reading about his life and his questionable methods of procuring specimens to study. The author does an outstanding job of bringing his world to life. Layered over the daily life of Jan and Andreas are the religious wars and political machinations of the day. I never felt lost or overwhelmed by the details that helped flesh out the framework of the story.


The Writing: The tightly scripted plot moves at a steady page-turning clip. Secrets are revealed as the lives of Jan and Andreas are stripped bare, surprising the reader at every turn. Fact and fiction are intertwined in the rich narrative of the story. 


Overall/Recommendation: I loved it! I highly recommend this book to lovers of great historical fiction, historical mysteries and readers interested in medicine and science. 


My rating: 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ stars. 


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