I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This book was at its best when treating the 1918 influenza itself and not the history of medicine or the micro-biographies of several of the researchers. I learned a lot and enjoyed it, but I also had to put up with a large amount of not very interesting material. Overall, I would still recommend this book to anyone. The interesting parts are too interesting to miss, and the book overcomes all its weaknesses. The narration was quite good.
This book is an extremely interesting review of medicine in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The author does an excellent job of reviewing the state of medicine, the men (there were apparently only men in medicine back then) involved, and how the so-called "Spanish flu" ravaged the world while World War I raged in the background. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in learning how pandemics can emerge and affect people worldwide.
John Barry's treatment of the epidemic couched in the context of the historical setting is great. The development of the characters, the wealth of research, the US (and some world) medical science history and the political environment all combined to make the actions and choices during this pandemic take on a significance they would otherwise lack.
I particularly enjoyed the analysis and thought process employed to evaluate individuals' and governments' choices and actions along with their impact on the lives of millions world wide and the possible implications for current and future generations. It begs the questions of the reader "what would I have done in that situation?"; "What should I be doing now?"
The balance between the education and the story worked well for me. It would be great to have other subjects in history treated in the same fashion. For me, it is always better to view the events of history with more education and context in which to frame them.
I'm a physician and I have always been interested in reading about the 1918 influenza pandemic. As one of the other reviewers stated, only a portion of this book is actually about the outbreak. This author should have spent more time focusing on the pandemic and less time reviewing the entire history of medicine. Also, it annoyed me how the author attempted to sensationalize this subject by his endless use of graphic similies. So this book gets 3/5 stars because it is just "average."
This is a great and frightening book. Before reading it I hardly knew anything about the 1918 flu pandemic, let alone that it took 50 to 100 million lives! The numbers just boggle the mind and the descriptions of the suffering and chaos chill the blood.
The Audiobook was well read and clear. My only complaint was that there was almost too much information at times. The first six hours dove into the history of medicine in general and the Johns Hopkins University in particular (which is fine if you have the spare time to listen to it). My advice, if you want to get into the real 'meat' of the influenza subject, is to bypass the first download section, and start listening from the beginning of the second.
No plot spoilers
What a fascinating look at the history of medicine and medical practice in America. The tale of the spread of disease and the blow by blow experience was harrowing. Well worth a listen.
Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.
This is a genuinely verbose book. Before it was published an editor with a pocket full of blue pencils should have "X'ed" out mounds of superfluous writing. As it is, the reader/listener will (presumably) not be interested in the private lives of researchers of the day, nor those of their assistants, nor detailed biographies of big city medical examiners, nor who the era's most famous doctors were and how their life experiences pointed them towards research in this thing or that, nor the struggle to change the direction of American research hospitals at the end of the nineteenth century. Yet, it's all there are: acres and acres of off- focus trivia. Further distracting is the author's philosophizing over subjects like what scientific research requires in the character of a person. When Barry stays on his subject it's obvious that he knows his stuff. His descriptions of the actions of influenza virus in the body are wonderful. Were his book edited to a third the size it would be worth the time.
Highly recommend to those with an interest in the history of the U.S. medical system and specifically the influence of WW I and the great epidemic. The story is the effect of the epidemic on American society, not the epidemic itself. Those who are preparing for the next influenza epidemic would be well served to listen. Biographies of the key players are woven into and around all the events. Long book, not for the faint of heart, abridgement might be useful for those who do not need explanation of medical terms.
Scott Brick’s narration is unique. For this book I thought it well suited.
Say something about yourself!
I bought this book to help me do research, and have read it through twice. The first time, I read it for the story. The second time, I read it for the details that I needed to note for my project. I have enjoyed it both times.
It is a brilliant retelling of a true modern-day pandemic and the scientists who tried to corral it. If you liked THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, you will find this an exceedingly satisfying use of a credit.I love that Barry incorporates so many details of everyday life.
A great example of this is his exploration of the limited options available to women back then and how, because of the desperate need for nursing care, the flu actually opened up a new--and respected--path for women who wanted and/or needed to work. Prior to this, a women's choices were limited pretty much to domestic work, marriage, or prostitution. Barry explains how the flu pandemic changed all that.In addition to little details such as women's roles, Barry takes us on a compelling trip through the history of medicine. Here is just one sample of the type of thing you'll learn here: that up to the turn of the last century, many highly respected, so-called med schools would cheerfully award diplomas to students who had never even had a single hands-on interaction with a patient, or even a cadaver. I'm not in the medical field, but I do like history. This is one of the best in the genre.
I am just so impressed when a writer can turn history into something lively and compelling. That is exactly what happened here. Mr. Barry took a thousand strands of storyline and wound them together in a captivating tale that made me want to know more.
I am one of the few people left on the planet who does not love, love, love Scott Brick. I would have loved it had Arthur Morey narrated this book. Mr. Brick's narration, while suitable, is the only reason I gave this book four stars, instead of five.
I first heard Scott Brick years ago when he was hired to voice Nelson DeMille's John Corey series. I found him serviceable in that role, and God knows, he is everywhere. Recently, I heard him read a Harlan Coben book, SIX YEARS, which I could barely get through because of his excessive emoting.
So I have to admit, I came into this book with a little bit of an, ahem, attitude. I have to say that I think Mr. Brick did a solid job with THE GREAT INFLUENZA. There were opportunities to mess it up. He didn't. He mostly stayed in a professional, newsman-style, non-fiction mode.
Where were you when the outbreak began?
My great-grandfather died in 1918 from the flu. He was the love of my great-grandmother's life and it had a huge impact on her. Add to this the fact of The Great War/The War to End All Wars/The First World War. The world was truly changing back then on a daily basis, and the flu was just one of the many causes. This is a great visit back into a unique time in American and world history.