The Physician (2013) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • When nine-year-old Rob Cole felt the life force slipping from his mother's hand he could not foresee that this terrifying awareness of impending death was a gift that would lead him from the familiar life of 11th-century London to small villages throughout England and finally to the medical school at Ispahan. Though apprenticed to an itinerant barber surgeon, it is the dazzling surgery of a Jewish physician trained by the legendary Persian physician Avicenna that inspires him to accept his gift and to commit his life to healing by studying at Avicenna's school. Despite the ban on Christian students, Rob goes there, disguising himself as a Jew to gain admission. Gordon has written an adventurous and inspiring tale of a quest for medical knowledge pursued in a violent world full of superstition and prejudice.

  • This engrossing book traces the life of 11th century Englishman, Robert Cole. Cole begins as a normal child, is quickly orphaned, and is then apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. As he travels throughout England with his master, the reader is introduced to all aspects of English peasant life. Family life, morality, religion, sexuality, medicine, xenophobia and history are all presented in an interesting, subtle, and easily read writing style. When Cole grows up and decides to be a physician, he comes in contact with Jewish doctors who explain to him that the best universities are in Moslem-ruled Persia, where no Christian may go. Determined to learn, Cole overcomes this obstacle by pretending to be a Jew. As he travels and studies in Persia, the same questions of lifestyle are addressed, only this time within the Jewish and Moslem communities.

  • In the Eleventh Century, in England, the mother of the boy Rob Cole has side sickness (appendicitis) and he foresees her death when he touches her. The orphan Rob is alone and he follows a traveling barber-surgeon that teaches him how to cure the needy. When the barber is blind with cataract, Rob Cole seeks out a Jewish physician that recovers the barber's vision. Rob Cole decides to learn medicine with the famous Ibn Sina in the distant Persia. Along his one-year journey, Rob makes a circumcision on himself and changes his name to Jesse Ben Benjamin, posing of Jewish to be accepted by Ibn Sina's school in Isfahan. Further he falls in love with Rebecca that is traveling to Isfahan in the same caravan to get married in a marriage of convenience. Jesse learns medicine with Ibn Sina while he performs forbidden experience with a corpse and has sex with Rebecca. When the mullahs betray the Shah Ala ad-Daula to the Seljuk, the lives of Ibn Sina, Jesse and their friends are deeply affected.

  • In Persia in the 11th Century, a surgeon's apprentice disguises himself as a Jew to study at a school that does not admit Christians.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sickand discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healinga gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of journey to Persia, to its Arab universities where he would undertake a transformation that would shape his destiny forever.

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