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

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
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U 50x66
's review
Jan 25, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

This is terrifying and inspiring in equal measure, but then it was really the events themselves that are responsible for that - although Barry of course deserves credit for unearthing the stories and figures. More pertinently, it's fairly gripping for most of its 465 pages - more so when covering the individual and collective efforts of scientists and doctors, less so when recounting so many deaths here, so many deaths there (it's something of a mortality tale, if you will. Sorry.).

My main gripe is that it's not exactly what it says on the tin, in that it's very US-centric: 'The Epic Story of America's Part in the Deadliest Plague in History' might be a more apt subtitle. OK, the US seems to have been the origin of the epidemic, and American doctors played a big part in the efforts to stop the killing, but the focus is out of all proportion to the incidence. That's fine in itself (there are limits to what can be researched overseas), but a bit of advance warning would have been nice.

Secondly, there's a bit of skipping around in terms of narrative, which again is fine if the intention was to preserve interest (the opposite effect was wrought on me, but whatever), and quite a lot of skipping around in terms of date and location, which was plain confusing.

But, in the main this was interesting, enlightening (I had no idea of the scale of US involvement in WW1, for example), and without doubt my best book of 2012 so far.

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