James Essinger & Sandra Koutzenko: Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions From Thalidomide

Today I’m pleased to be reviewing a book that is a little different: Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions From Thalidomide. It is written with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the blof blitz and for my copy of the book via the publisher.


Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side effects.
We know differently now.
Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.
But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled bureaucracy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous.
Frankie is her story.


My knowledge of Thalidomide is very limited, and mostly comes from the TV series, Call The Midwife, which ran a storyline on the Thalidomide issue last year. I was therefore very interested to learn more about it, and how it affected families, not just in the UK, but throughout the world. Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions From Thalidomide is informative and I enjoyed being taken on a learning curve by this book. It’s full of detailed facts and medical information but it’s always accessible, even to a fairly ignorant reader like me.

The hero of this book is obviously Frances Kelsey, affectionately known as Frankie. I really liked the way the authors conveyed Frankie’s personality to the reader. She comes across as intelligent, witty and modest and this helped me to appreciate more about what she achieved.

I have met only one “Thalidomider” in my life, and as such, have very little appreciation of how their disability affects them, both physically and in terms of the difficulties they face in their daily lives. I enjoyed the accounts from Thalidomiders in this book as it gave me greater understanding of the effect the drug had on them and their families.

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions From Thalidomide is available from Amazon.

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