‘Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History’ by Catherine Arnold

I picked this up in late 2020, thinking it might be a good thing to know a bit more about pandemics, since we were in the middle of one.

It is constructed in an anecdotal way, drawing on many, many sources – and must’ve required daunting amounts of trawling through archives, local newspapers, medical records, death stats, etc to put together. Like the pandemic, the book darts about the world (in a slightly disjointed way). Like the pandemic, the book spends a lot of time in the USA, dealing with how the ‘Spanish Lady’ affected the States, spreading outwards from military training camps and from soldiers returning from WWI. It dodges about in time a bit too.

Unlike our current pandemic, whole communities were wiped out, in ways that remind one more of the English experience with the Black Death in the Middle Ages than our recent experience with Coronavirus. The value of quarantining was recognised as beneficial and life saving during the Black Death pandemic. It doesn’t seem to have been used much during the Spanish influenza outbreaks and, as we know, was applied at best patchily during our own recent battle with a deadly virus. However, masks were believed to be efficacious, and were popular.

You may be amazed (if you read this book, or pick up stats about the Spanish influenza from another source) how many people died. 500 million are estimated to have been infected, of whom 50 million died. That’s 1 in 10. It was an H1N1 virus. They’re still here. And mutating all the time.

It was a sobering read. But not, I have to say, a page turner, despite its fascinating and sometimes grisly stories of ordinary folk. It was a little too bitty to have much bite. For that reason I didn’t manage to finish it until our own pandemic had taken its foot off our throats.

I feel better informed for having read it. Although there are a number of other books on the subject, and it may pay you to shop around, sampling, if this is a subject you want to know more about.

And I daresay there will be some ‘compare and contrast’ works being written right now about our most recent version of a pandemic.


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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