Review: Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

Summary: Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry. Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die. When the two of them have a chance encounter, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.

Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then. But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

Genre: historical fiction, romance, young adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Anatomy: A Love Story is aptly named, because, as such, when you read this book, you will promptly fall in love with it. Seriously, I am swooning. The cover is breathtaking; Hazel is a fierce, young woman who won’t let society’s standards and expectations of her stop her from chasing her dreams; her relationship with Jack is dreamy and cutesy; the ending completely swept me off my feet and left me unsure of everything I assumed I knew. This book truly had everything, and I could not get enough of it.

Hazel is such an incredible protagonist. In 19th century Scotland, it’s expected of her to marry her cousin and become a well-off lady. Instead, she strived to follow her passion for science and become the first female surgeon. She refused to let anything get in her way, and was not afraid to use her family name and power to her advantage to get where she wanted to be.

I adored her snarky attitude and commentary toward being courted and being married off at such a young age. She made it extremely clear to her betrothed how she felt about him, which made for a lot of entertaining scenes. For being such a short book, a lot of time was spent focused on Hazel fighting against the societal norms of getting married young and succumbing to your husband.

“It’s the lesson young girls everywhere were taught their entire lives—don’t be seduced by the men you meet, protect your virtue—until, of course, their entire lives depended on seduction by the right man. It was an impossible situation, a trick of society as a whole: force women to live at the mercy of whichever man wants them but shame them for anything they might do to get a man to want them. Passivity was the ultimate virtue. Be patient, be silent, be beautiful and untouched as an orchid, and then and only then will your reward come:
a bell jar to keep you safe.”

This book was a lot darker and more gory than I was anticipating, but it really drove home the gothic feel and created a truly eerie atmosphere throughout. The city is facing a plague, and men like Jack work to dig up recently deceased bodies to sell to doctors who are trying to find a cure. One of the near-opening scenes involves Hazel dissecting an animal to learn more about anatomy. The anatomy lectures are gruesome at times, and Hazel sees her fair share of tragedy through the eyes of patients over the course of the story.

I’ve seen reviews of people complaining about the ending of the story, where the mystery subplot heavily picks up, but it was my favorite part! I thought it fit perfectly with the rest of the story, and it was the biggest twist, for lack of a better term, which made the story so much more terrifying.

This is certainly not a lighthearted story, and yet I found myself oddly hopeful for Hazel. I wanted so badly to see her succeed, to achieve her goals, to get what she wanted and deserved from her life. And let’s not forget the oddly-timed romance that was simultaneously slightly morbid and sweet.

My only gripe about this book is that, despite what the title says, it isn’t really a love story. There is certainly romance, but I wouldn’t say it’s the driving point of the story. It’s more of an aside, and since it doesn’t ever get fully developed, there were times I questioned the validity of it. It seemed like Hazel and Jack had only just met each other, and suddenly there was a line about them getting out of bed together, which wouldn’t be realistic for the setting of the story; their romance also wasn’t ever developed enough for it to be assumed that it had become sexual. It was almost as if scenes had been removed before the book was published. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the romance plot here, but this was so much more than a love story.

“Love is nothing but the prolonged agony of waiting for it to end. The fear of losing the ones we love makes us do selfish and foolish and cruel things. The only freedom is freedom from love, and once your love is gone, it can be perfect, crystallized in your memory forever.”

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