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Can You Hear Me?

Can You Hear Me?

A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOK CLUB PICK

‘With poignancy, humour and compassion, Jones invites us into “the invigorating chaos of pre-hospital care” . . . a panorama of experiences: the mundane, the ridiculous, the heartbreaking and the tragic’ – The Guardian

‘This beautifully written book, punctuated with wry humour, is a sobering portrayal of the ailing, the distressed and the lonely… Yet it’s also an uplifting read which will make you thankful that should your hour of need arrive, so will someone like Jones’ – Daily Express

A memoir of the chaos, intensity and occasional beauty of life as a paramedic.

A young man has stopped breathing in a supermarket toilet. A pedestrian with a nasty head injury won’t let the crew near him on a busy road. A newborn baby is worryingly silent. An addict urinates on the ambulance floor when denied a fix. This is the life of an ambulance paramedic.

Jake Jones has worked in the UK ambulance service for ten years: every day, he sees a dozen of the scenes we hope to see only once in a lifetime. Can You Hear Me? – the first thing he says when he arrives on the scene – is a memoir of the chaos, intensity and occasional beauty of life on the front-lines of medicine in the UK.

As well as a look into dozens of extraordinary scenes – the hoarder who won’t move his collection to let his ailing father leave the house, the blood-soaked man who tries to escape from the ambulance, the life saved by a lucky crew who had been called to see someone else entirely – Can You Hear Me? is an honest examination of the strains and challenges of one of the most demanding and important jobs anyone can do.

Reviews

A panorama of experiences: the mundane, the ridiculous, the heartbreaking and the tragic.
Guardian
This beautifully written book, punctuated with wry humour, is a sobering portrayal of the ailing, the distressed and the lonely... Yet it's also an uplifting read which will make you thankful that should your hour of need arrive, so will someone like Jones
Daily Express
According to Jake Jones, who has spent ten years as a paramedic, there is in his job "a stubborn embargo on egotism and conceit..." Evidently, two crucial qualities a paramedic needs are patience and compassion... [His] humour brings some light relief, because we are in no doubt about the difficulty of his work... He admits that the "short visit to someone else's heartbreak" takes its toll, and alludes to the impact on mental health that stifling frequent bursts of anguish may have. Jones's writing is at its most humane when he describes the panic and grief induced by losing his father to Alzheimer's. But there is no self-indulgence here; rather, Jones conveys in these passages the humbling effect of experiencing trauma from the inside.
Times Literary Supplement
[Jones is] not just a good paramedic, however. There's a descriptive flair to his writing, too, as he breathes uncomfortable life into foul, neglected flats and wet Sunday-night cityscapes, and embarks on a frightening subterranean rescue mission into an industrial labyrinth... Can You Hear Me? does nothing to dent the heroic image of the paramedic, but Jones' troubling ambivalence brings a complexity to it, forcing him to ask whether the pragmatic, detached attitude needed to do such work is a poisoned chalice, doing them harm as they do others good.
The Herald
Jake Jones has written a searing, honest, often funny account of life in the UK ambulance service. An intense, and sometimes strangely beautiful, read.
Richard & Judy Book Club Autumn 2020 selection