Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Archibald McIndoe: Background information when reading The Facemaker

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Facemaker

A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

by Lindsey Fitzharris

The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris X
The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2023, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
Buy This Book

About this Book

Archibald McIndoe

This article relates to The Facemaker

Print Review

Statue depicting Archibald McIndoe standing with a seated soldier leaning against himThe Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Harold Gillies, a brilliant surgeon and visionary who helped pioneer the field of facial reconstruction during World War I. Through his dedication and innovation, Gillies not only restored the faces of countless soldiers, he also laid the foundation for future reconstructive work and modern-day plastic surgery. Many individuals were influenced by Gillies, including his cousin, Archibald McIndoe.

McIndoe was born in New Zealand in 1900 and graduated from medical school in 1923. He traveled to America, where he worked at the Mayo Clinic, and moved to England in 1931. When he was unable to find employment there, he reached out to his cousin, Harold Gillies, who was older by almost two decades and already well established in his career. Gillies invited McIndoe to join his private practice, and McIndoe quickly began to learn the work of a plastic surgeon.

When World War II began, Gillies and McIndoe were two of only four experienced plastic surgeons working in Britain. The four men were sent to different hospitals to serve as the heads of plastic surgery units for injured servicemen. McIndoe was sent to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, where he founded the Centre for Plastic and Jaw Surgery to help injured men serving in the Royal Air Force. These men often suffered from what became known as "airman's burn" — burns to the face and hands caused by burning aircraft fuel tanks.

In treating these wounds, McIndoe, like his cousin had during WWI, began to develop new surgical techniques. At the time, tannic acid was commonly used to treat burns; this compound shrank the tissue around the burn to reduce fluid loss, but the tightening of the tissues was extremely painful and left extensive scarring. McIndoe noted that pilots who crash-landed in the sea experienced less scarring than other pilots, and he started using saline baths to help begin the healing process. The use of saline solution was found to improve recovery time and survival rates, and McIndoe pushed the Ministry of Health to adopt its use as the new standard for burn management. He also developed a new skin graft technique based on Gillies' work called the walking-stalk skin graft, in which the skin to be used in grafting is formed into a tube and then "walked" gradually toward the target area.

McIndoe additionally sought to address the social ostracism experienced by soldiers with facial disfigurement. He encouraged his patients to venture into East Grinstead and interact with the community. In 1941, the Guinea Pig Club — the name referencing the experimental nature of McIndoe's treatments — was established as a social club and support group for men recovering under McIndoe's care. As the Guinea Pigs, as well as other patients, began to visit town more regularly, people became more comfortable with seeing facial injuries, and East Grinstead came to be known as "the town that never stared." In fact, many soldiers ended up marrying their nurses or women from East Grinstead, as McIndoe encouraged the locals to see the person behind the facial injuries. Being treated as typical men played a significant role in the patients' reintegration into society and their mental rehabilitation.

McIndoe died in 1960, but his legacy carried on. Members of the Guinea Pig Club honored him at their annual reunion meetings until the final meeting in 2007. The Blond McIndoe Centre was opened in 1961 and continues to fund groundbreaking research to help advance the science of healing. Queen Victoria Hospital is still known for its excellence in plastic and reconstructive surgery. In 2014, a memorial statue dedicated to McIndoe was unveiled in East Grinstead, honoring his work to help in the psychological recovery of his patients.

Much like Harold Gillies, Archibald McIndoe dedicated himself to alleviating the suffering of men, particularly airmen, injured in war. His advances regarding the use of saline are still a standard in burn management, and his work towards healing both the physical and psychological wounds of his patients bettered the lives of hundreds of injured men.

Archibald McIndoe memorial statue in East Grinstead, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Jordan Lynch

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Facemaker. It originally ran in August 2022 and has been updated for the June 2023 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Change
    Change
    by Edouard Louis
    Édouard Louis's 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy—an instant literary success, published ...
  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Bloodcarver
    The Last Bloodcarver
    by Vanessa Le
    The city-state of Theumas is a gleaming metropolis of advanced technology and innovation where the ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
A Great Country
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
A novel exploring the ties and fractures of a close-knit Indian-American family in the aftermath of a violent encounter with the police.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.