My Copy: 9781250139436 (image from bn.com)
Most of my thoughts as the book went on were on par with “wow” or “holy shit!” as events unfolded. This book is quite timely considering how Covid-19 has swept the planet. It’s startling and sobering in turns… especially with the last three chapters.
Pandemic 1918 does a little chronology hopping with it’s chapters, but not too much. It’s organized around locations, event changes (the ups and downs of the virus) with the eyewitness testimony or diary entries keeping us grounded in between the names and figures and dates of recovery or death.
It was interesting to read how things started out (as best people can figure), and the first cases. This particular illness was damned startling in how unique it was, and the descriptions are horrific. It was incredible how much they figured out and how little at the same time, because this event was before viruses were seen as different than bacteria in the medical community, the beginnings of doctors as scientists as well as healers, and before DNA/RNA mapping and testing was possible.
I think there is much to learn in this book, and I was amazed at how the Spanish Flu hit so much of the world and how people tried to deal with it. What startled me most and made me plow through to the end was the last three chapters. These describe events after 1919 and the ways that scientists and researchers got involved in the search for the original virus in bodies–had no idea there was something called “viral archaeology” til this book.
These researches led to helping contain the Hong Kong flu that broke out in 1997. I won’t spoil all that happened, but let’s just say there’s some uncomfortable parallels with what we’re seeing with Covid-19. I had to stop and re-read those sections a few times to make sure I had them right, because it was just too radical.
Pandemic 1918 is a timely read for sure, and makes me want to check out more books on medical history. A keeper on my shelf.