DAMON GALGUT IS the South African author of several novels, the latest of which, The Good Doctor, has been shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize. A go-getting young medic called Laurence arrives at a remote rural hospital to begin a year's community service. The place is a dump, 'halfway between nothing and somewhere . .. slowly falling into ruin'. The staff, too, are in pretty bad shape. They consist of an uptight superintendent doctor and her lugubrious deputy, Frank, who is also the novel's narrator; an unhappily married Cuban couple; a sullen male nurse; and some kitchen workers and cleaners. And that's it. They are all bored out of their minds. Certainly they are not overworked. Since the hospital lacks the supplie or facilities for any but the most basic first-aid procedures, the few patients who turn up are usually referred to a better-equipped hospital in another town, several hours away by car.
Despite all the wards full of empty beds, Frank is told that he must share his room with Laurence. A former army doctor and the son of a celebrity surgeon, Frank has been waiting to take control of the hospital for years, although without any real interest in the job