Books & Literature

Book Review: The Application of Pressure, by Rachael Mead

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: Paramedics Tash and Joel must fight to preserve their mental health and relationships but how much pressure can they handle, and what will happen when they finally crack?

An engaging and eye-opening work.

Renowned Adelaide poet and Renaissance woman Rachael Mead has just added to her considerable portfolio by publishing a novel.

Based around the experiences of paramedics, The Application of Pressure is a rare insight into the world of front-line emergency health work. Structured more as a series of vignettes than a single narrative, it tells the stories of Tash and Joel over 20 years of paramedical work. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Mead takes us through the gamut of emergencies: car accidents, overdoses, heart-attacks and even a case of chronic constipation. She highlights the humour, the humanity and the horror in equal doses, but without a trace of artifice or superficial sentimentality.

Tash and Joel are both likeable and relatable characters. Both slightly flawed human beings (as are we all), we see their private lives suffer, in part because of the nature of their work. At the heart of these stories is their long-standing work-partnership and friendship which frames the narrative. She switches between first and third person, giving us pivoting points-of-view of both circumstances and characters.

The majority of this novel is set around Adelaide so is full of landmarks and situations familiar to any resident. However, Mead does take Joel over to the Solomon Islands for a while, and Tash up to the Lands around Uluru, allowing for a change of scenery and of clientele.

One of the joys of Mead’s work is her ability to go into often confronting medical detail without gratuitous gore, and whilst retaining the drive of the story.  There are some voyeuristically fascinating moments.

This is a very readable, engaging piece of work with an important and eye-opening story to tell. If you have ever wondered about a paramedic “how do they keep doing it?”, then you will find the answers within these covers.

As Tash says to Joel “A normal day for us is a twelve-hour compilation of the worst days of other people’s lives”.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Affirm Press
Released: May 2020
RRP: $29.99

Disclaimer: Tracey Korsten is a colleague of the author.

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