Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay – book review

If you’re standing on your doorstep each Thursday evening at 8pm, clapping, banging pans or beeping horns for the NHS – then read this book and repeat the above 10 times louder.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the second book from comedian Adam Kay, following the best-selling This Is Going To Hurt.

It features anecdotes of his time on the obstetrics and gynaecology ward over six Christmas’ back when he was a junior doctor.

I missed the festive bandwagon first time around, but I’m glad I read it when I did – three weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in the UK.

Christmas jokes have already done the rounds on social media, with some saying they may as well stick the decks up. Most of us out of work or on furlough are eating and drinking like it’s Christmas – or at least I am. And the NHS is bursting at the seams – but this is much different from Christmas – Christmas is just the tip of the iceberg in comparison.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is seven short chapters, which I read from cover to cover in around two hours. Frankly, I couldn’t put it down.

By page two, I’d already laughed out loud more times than I could count on one hand, and read three extracts to mum and dad, demanding they read it once I’d finished. There are some brilliant metaphors, likening an elderly person’s shattered hip to a bag of broken biscuits, for one.

Adam Kay is a natural writer, and his comedy is nowhere near forced. The book feels as though you’re sat in the pub with your brutally honest friend that doesn’t even realise they’re funny.

But laced between the humour are some shocking stories which highlight just a handful of what the struggling NHS have to deal with – and that’s just in one department.

Yes okay, I laughed when a girl with a nut allergy used peanut butter as lube, and when another used a mars bar wrapper as a condom.

But there’s also the dramatic snap back down to earth like a platform has been ripped from under your feet when Adam Kay retells performing a pregnancy termination to save a young girls life.

It touches on how relationships outside of hospital walls strain, and reminds us that those NHS workers who keep clocking in for 12 hour shifts day in, day out, are human. They may live and breathe their career, but they go back home after a gruelling shift of removing bizarre objects from even more bizarre holes and have a life, a family, interests and passions.  The scrubs may come off, but the emotions of the day don’t wash off so easily.

Right now, our NHS workers – the unsung heroes – are fighting on a frontline against an enemy they’ve never encountered, and giving it their all.

This isn’t another Christmas in the NHS, but Kay’s honest, eye-opening book sure gives insight into their difficult daily encounters.

One review on Goodreads read: “The British public will finally appreciate the sacrifices made and the challenges faced by the unsung heroes of the NHS.”

I couldn’t agree more. We already knew the NHS was doing something phenomenal – and despite the books initial intentions, I think it’s important to read it now more than ever and remind ourselves that these doctors, nurses, registrars, porters, pharmacists – they’re human. Bloody brilliant, talented, caring and unbelievably strong humans keeping us all safe.

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