- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; 2 edition (15 February 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143036491
- ISBN-13: 978-0143036494
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3 x 21.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History The Paperback – 15 Feb 2006
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The book is well researched, yet the key element that makes the book readable is the narrative about the state of medical science, medical schools and their evolution at the start of the 20th century. Then the historical context is set up for the events that followed. There is also a detailed account of why the pandemic took such a toll on the world.
Every year we are told to get vaccinated against the flu. After reading this book and having lost my son to the flu, the book gave me a deeper understanding of the forces at work and why sometimes the outcome can be so deadly.
I highly recommend this book.
The book is, my opinion, well written. There are so many characters, however, that I had to retrace my steps from time to time in order to refresh my memory of who was working to stop the spread and who was pushing hard to keep moving soldiers from place to place within America as well as abroad. It was primarily the troop movement that enabled the disease to become a world-wide pandemic.
I do not wish to discourage anyone from reading the book: it probably explains how a disease killed more than 21 million people before it ended in 1920, in a world population of less than one-third of what it is today, about as well as it can be explained.
If you should choose to read the book, just be prepared to decide how much medical history you wish to read. What is most discouraging is the fact that the American medical system isn't that much different in its unwillingness to accept change in the diagnosis and treatment of illness from the way it was then. Thankfully, research has prevailed, and science and technology have given us a great armament of knowledge and weapons with which to prevent and cure disease.
Typically I have a bigger TBR pile than I can handle so I tend to ignore the Kindle notifications about discounted or hot new books, however on a whim I checked one out and this book, which reminded me of The Hot Zone, was steeply discounted such that it was an irresistible purchase.
The opening starts slow, and I'd argue the pace of the book is slow, plodding, and methodical, much as the scientists John Barry describes so vividly. Like Avery, he deep dives into the Spanish flu and leaves little if nothing unexplored. Like Welch he makes something deeply scientific approachable to lay people.
I am especially appreciative that he took the time to develop the context so that readers could appreciate even more how influenza taxed both researchers and medical practitioners.
Moreover Barry demonstrates the importance of vaccination and the continued risk and deadliness of influenza today without sounding like a government PSA. This is still a disease to be taken very seriously.
Overall a gripping, thrilling read. I'm so glad for this whim of a purchase. My family...perhaps not so much as I've...uh....been talking their ears off about it.