The Bad Doctor is a graphic novel describing the daily life of Dr. Iwan James, a general practitioner in a small Welsh town. At the time of the story, Dr. James is an established, middle-aged physician, with a wife and two grown sons. Initially it appears that despite his outward success, Dr. James is simply dissatisfied with his life and career – with his early marriage, with his overbearing colleague, and with his patients, who come to him with all sorts of ailments, from silly to tragic to creepy. However, the readers learn that Dr. James is also struggling mentally with himself. Through flashbacks to his childhood and his medical school years, and through his clinical interactions with a patient suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, it is revealed that Dr. James has also wrestled with this disorder since childhood. In between composedly caring for all of his patients, releasing his frustrations on long bike rides through the Welsh hills, and sharing his concerns with friends, he learns to understand his compulsions and confront his own sense of inadequacy.

The author, Dr. Ian Williams, has in fact worked in a rural general practice in Wales. Although this novel is a work of fiction, and “any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental” (pg. 2), the story is naturally and richly informed by his personal experiences.


This is an especially insightful portrayal of the doctor-patient relationship, told refreshingly in the format of a graphic novel. Physicians frequently face feelings of guilt, frustration, and helplessness as they attempt to do their best for difficult patients or for patients facing difficult diseases. Dr. Williams captures these heavy emotions honestly and leavens them with humor, resulting in a realistic depiction of how physicians cope with emotionally taxing situations behind the scenes. But it isn’t all dissatisfaction and gloom, and Dr. Williams gets it right there too. His character, Dr. James, also has touching triumphs, making small but caring differences in his patients’ lives as he sees them in the office or visits them at home. Just like Dr. James, at the end of the book, the audience is left with a sense that in spite of the daily grind and the personal battles, being a good physician is meaningful and that everyone – doctor and patient – has troubles to face, sometimes more successfully than others.


Myriad Editions

Place Published

Brighton, UK



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