Review Detail

100th Anniversary of the Spanish Flu
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)  
 
5.0
Learning Value 
 
5.0
This well-illustrated book covers a vast amount of historical information concerning both World War I and the Spanish Flu Epidemic, which happened 100 years ago. While there are many volumes of history that covers WWI, there is very little about the Spanish Flu epidemic, which was a terribly devastating event.



The effects of this disease were felt all over the globe, and while the severity of the flu and the social implications it had were far worse than the Black Death (which everyone has studied in school!), there is very little coverage of it in history classes. I knew that it had happened, but had no idea of the ramifications. One of the very effective devices of this book is to record accounts of famous people who survived their affliction. Walt Disney, authors Katharine Porter and Ernest Hemingway, and President Woodrow Wilson all were stricken ill but recovered. In the case of Wilson, the hallucinations attendant upon the disease may have negatively impacted his dealings with the League of Nations, and therefore changed the course of history. Hearing about the people who survived gave a graver feeling of immediacy to the assertion that the contributions of many, many people were lost because they did not survive.
Good Points
In addition to showing a cross section of famous and ordinary citizens, there are accounts of the effects of the flu from Alaska to US army bases to the US Leviathan and locations in Europe. Doctors at the time struggled to figure out the transmission path of the disease and seemed powerless to halt its progress. Medical treatments at the time are discussed, as are the various methods used to try to stop the virus, from gauze masks to limiting social movements to quack remedies.



Modern medicine has made great strides in both understanding and treating diseases, and toward the end of the book we are given a lot more explanation about why the Spanish Flu was so deadly. This explanation is followed by a rather complete history of medical sleuthing from ancient times to the present complete with timelines, as well as a good index, excellent bibliography, and complete notes.



This is on the lengthier side of narrative nonfiction for younger readers, which might make this more useful for research than pleasure reading. Children who are very interested in medical topics and who enjoyed Jurmain's The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing, Murphy's Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure, Jarrow's Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary or Wittenstein's For the Good of Mankind? : The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation will be riveted by the detailed descriptions of both the disease and its effects on society and the medical communities investigation of the Spanish Flu's genesis and cure.
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