Christopher's Reviews > The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
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's review
Feb 18, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: mass-market-history
Read in February, 2012

An interesting book with an eclectic approach to the subject that is generally rewarding. The different strands that the author chases down often prove enlightening, varying from the dismal state of American medical science and practice at the end of the 19th century to the draconian laws that Wilson passed upon America's entrance into the Great War.

At times, however, the author's enthusiasm for these threads overwhelms his sense of the larger work, leading to lengthy and detailed tangents into areas whose relevance is questionable at best. As is unfortunately common in works of mass market history, he also imposes on the individuals of the story distinctive character sets of limited depth, a narrative indulgence that creates a sense of inevitability that is jarring at times. In addition to these weaknesses, the book suffers from endless and unproductive repetition in places, bloating the book to an obscene size and making large sections of it an unpleasant chore to get through. Careful editing could likely have reduced this book to half its length.
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