COUNTDOWN DAY 4 to the 150th anniversary of the famous Battle of Lissa, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book about the ship’s surgeon who was there.
Through the blaze of gunfire and smoke, Ephraim and the Seehund crew made out the Ferdinand Max rushing full speed ahead at the ironclad Italian Palestro, heard the blow, the crunch and creaks as Tegetthoff smashed her stern and set her on fire. The admiral pulled away and hunted another — his tactic, outnumbered by ships, men and guns was, against the odds, to ram the superior Italian fleet into defeat. Could Austria possibly succeed?
For a chance to win a copy of The Extraordinary Dr Epstein, answer the quiz question on Wednesday 20 July 2016.
Excerpt from Chapter 20, Battle. Ephraim’s epic poem about the battle won him an award from Emperor Franz Joseph. Author great granddaughter still seeks that poem! Go HERE for a non-fiction page on the famous Battle of Lissa, why it was fought, what else it is famous for and what happened next.
… and news broke of Bismarck’s outrageous actions Ephraim’s personal interest grew. Talk among the medics turned from the massive losses of the American Civil War to the horrible death count in the Crimean War only a decade ago. ‘The only good thing that comes of war is medical progress,’ his chief surgeon harrumphed. ‘And opportunities, especially for doctors.’
Ephraim saw younger physicians seeking military commissions. Here was his chance — a test of courage in battle conditions, a gain of medical experience, an escape from claustrophobic Vienna, and threats on two fronts, by land and by sea, with no other nation coming to Austria’s aid. This was the answer for Ephraim, a call and determination he’d not felt since his decision to go to America.
Vienna, 1866: Dr Epstein dares to take up a new challenge which will see him shine in one of naval history’s most famous events, the Battle of Lissa. Its 150th anniversary is next month. In Chapter 19, Fierce as a Leopard, Light as an Eagle, Ephraim overcomes his own impatience and pride to pass official exams and be commissioned ship’s surgeon in the Austrian Imperial Navy. His epic poem about the battle won him an award from Emperor Franz Joseph. Author great granddaughter still seeks that poem. Contact via this site if you can help!
… concerts, lectures and dances. Ephraim had looks, intelligence, bright liveliness, he was a linguist, a scholar, physician, he told fascinating tales of America and Turkey… and he was unmarried. Through friends and medical colleagues he was introduced to sisters and daughters whenever he socialized. He met pretty women, and intelligent women, and pretty, intelligent women. But though he laughed, waltzed and conversed, he was not drawn to anyone. He realized he had lived so long as a married man with and without Rachel that he did not know how to fall in love.
Divorced from his cousin-wife, in Chapter 19, Fierce as a Leopard, Light as an Eagle, Ephraim is in Vienna, 1863-66. He’s a physician in the prestigious Vienna General Hospital and stuck back in Europe and Judaism because of the promise to his mother. But this restless man will soon drive himself to yet another drastic life change.
…for the briefest of moments Ephraim did not recognize her, and then — ‘Mama!’ He flung his arms around his heart’s balm, bowing his head to kiss her tear-wet cheeks as she murmured his name. They pulled apart and Ephraim extended his hands toward his father, and then surprised himself by hugging Papa, too, and found the hug returned. And then, hovering half-hidden, a graceful, blonde, blue-eyed fourteen-year-old, Ephraim’s daughter: Sarah.
‘Papa.’ She bobbed a little curtsy and blushed.
Reconciliation at last, not in Belarus but in Heidelberg, Germany. In Chapter 17, Ephraim Feeds on the Wind, Grandfather’s death brings Dr Epstein and his wife out of Turkey and into the loving arms of his family. While he rejoices to be with his daughter Ephraim encounters new strains on his difficult marriage and new pressures on his faith.
… perfidious, in preventing Sarah from coming. Why? To hurt him? To beat him in one of their petty battles? He could hardly imagine the possibility that Rachel wished to have him all to herself. Perhaps it was to punish him for the years of so-called widowhood.
After all, he in the first place had left Rachel and Sarah behind. But when it came to ‘in the first place’ it was his grandfather, Zayde, who had made them marry and created this mess. The buts and ifs and accusations chased through his head and he knew he would continue to tolerate his wife. He had to, it was his duty.
Ephraim is furious over two betrayals by his wife. In Chapter 15, The Taste of Learning, he learns she has prevented their daughter from joining them here in Turkey. And she has gossiped about the restrictions he has put on their conjugal life. What’s more, he is frustrated in his missionary work – and then he gets an order to move on.
…had settled to a routine, the course of study at New York’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was intensive. The college had two main halls — the upper, with a skylight, was for anatomy, physiology and surgery. The afternoons saw Ephraim next door in the lab building, training in dissection and chemistry. His entire being — even that part of him committed to the Lord — was engaged, stimulated and challenged by the pace and breadth of learning. He thought of his father forbidding such worldly learning. He tried not to think of Mama at all.
In Chapter 12, Bellevue, Ephraim embarks on three years of sponsored medical study and training, finding friends and a new mentor but now severed from his wife and beloved Mama. It’s 1856-7 when advanced medicine relied on ‘heroic therapy’ — drastic treatments including purging, sweating and bleeding. Photo here is from the Science Museum, London, a case and lancet for opening a vein. It is dated 1792, but bleeding was the common treatment from earliest known history up into the later days of Ephraim’s practice as a physician.
A letter from home at last, but it was bordered with black, the only words: ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!’ At the bottom his parents names and the numbers 1829 – 1853: the dates of Ephraim’s birth and his revealed conversion to Christianity. They had declared him dead.
The room spun and he gripped the sides of the wooden chair he sat in. Trembling, he gathered his scarf and hat and hurried down the staircase into the biting air of gray November. He walked fast, blindly. He sped on, driven by grief, by horror: what had he done? He had found his own God. And now his parents had severed him.
Having successfully begun at seminary in Chapter 11, At Andover, Ephraim breaks down in health and mind at his family’s reaction to his conversion. He learns new lessons in endurance, finding support in the household of his teacher, Professor Calvin Stowe, and Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Will Ephraim see his wife and daughter again? When I am a physician, he vows, then I will rescue them.
though still raw, were welcomed with almost as much joy in Harrison as his erudition and possibly even his conversion. Side by side with Brother Solomon and others he worked the hundred acres. All the while,
every day, every evening, they studied, read, debated, interpreted. Linguistic disputation, phrase-by-phrase, sometimes word-by-word, discussion, the passionate rationality of Talmudic debate turned with all its strength to the New Testament. In the talk and learning, this inner exploration and pushing out of boundaries, this freedom to question everything, Ephraim experienced the pure oxygen of encouragement.
And so, in Chapter 10, Melioration, Ephraim spends three years among Hebrew Christians until he is rewarded with an offer of medical school — on one condition. ‘I wrote to Mama and Papa to tell them I am a Christian. I pray it doesn’t kill her.’