APRIL READ - The Great Influenza

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APRIL READ - The Great Influenza

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1Morphidae
maaliskuu 28, 2013, 5:36pm

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry

Reminder! I near forgot! Bad Morphy! I'll scoot over to the library to order a copy.

There won't be a spoiler thread for this one since it's nonfiction.

2catzteach
maaliskuu 28, 2013, 7:23pm

This one sounds interesting! I'll pick up the library's copy on Saturday.

3Marissa_Doyle
maaliskuu 28, 2013, 7:30pm

I read it a few years back. It's good. Long, but good.

4SylviaC
maaliskuu 28, 2013, 8:32pm

I almost forgot, too. Fortunately, I already have a copy. I started reading it years ago, got about a third of the way through, and something came up that distracted me. So I'll start again at the beginning.

5streamsong
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 11:03am

I have my copy from the library and was also surprised at how long it is. It seems to be my year to read tomes. It will be a bit before I start it, though.

6clamairy
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 11:21am

I loved this one. Yeah, it's long and horrific in parts, but well worth the effort.

7SylviaC
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 11:25am

The last 80 pages are notes, bibliography, and index, so that shortens it a bit.

8Morphidae
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 12:19pm

I'm going to read it over the entire month. I figure a certain number of pages per day.

9clamairy
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2013, 2:14pm

Good timing reading it in the Spring, too. You do NOT want to be reading this during flu season. (Well, I guess it's not Spring for our southern hemisphere members, is it? Is their flu season just winding up?)

10hfglen
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 3:39pm

I haven't ever seen hair or hide of the book and so wasn't planning to participate in this one. However.

I had the first touch of flu in years about a month ago. Nevertheless, I'd expect to see more sniffles between about June and August, the depths of winter here (a statement that would be more credible on the Highveld than in Durban, where our miserably cold is about 10 degrees (C) warmer that Tris's midsummer). Which reminds me: the worst bit of my first visit to USA was that the Prof insisted that before I left Cape Town I HAD to have a flu shot. Being a very green M student I listened, and in consequence travelled from winter to summer with an apparently unshakeable-off case of the sniffles. But at least I got to see a corner of Clam's home state for a day or 2!

11clamairy
maaliskuu 30, 2013, 4:08pm

#10 - LOL, how long ago was this? And by home state, do you mean where I make my home now, or where I was born? Because though I live in CT I was born in New York.

12hfglen
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 31, 2013, 6:19am

#11: 1973, and actually both.
Introduction to the U.S.and A. was at a friend's in-laws on the fabled Isle of Long ;-) Also NYC (of course), Adirondacks, Bennington VT, Williamstown MA and Danbury CT -- all well worth seeing!

13Jasper
maaliskuu 31, 2013, 4:00am

That was a great (if horrifying) book. My Paternal Grandmother died in that epidemic.

14clamairy
maaliskuu 31, 2013, 9:17am

#12 - Oh, you covered a lot of territory! :o)

#13 - My father lost his very young sister during the epidemic. He was 2 at the time. He's no longer living or I would pump him for information about the time. Though apparently not too many survivors would discuss the event willingly.

15streamsong
maaliskuu 31, 2013, 10:14am

I was at a seminar last year where a Public Health Nurse presented her research on the local epidemic.

She said that since it was spread by soldiers returning home from WWl, people were told it was disrespectful to the returning soldiers and unpatriotic to discuss it. The feeling was that if it was discussed, returning soldiers would be shunned at a time they needed to be treated like heroes. The epidemic and the resulting deaths were not reported in area newspapers. Except for the increased number of obitituaries, a newspaper reader would never have known something was ocurring. She did her research through public health death records.

16alco261
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2013, 4:20pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

17stellarexplorer
huhtikuu 2, 2013, 1:16am

I can't wait for this to arrive! I'm a nut for infectious disease!

18catzteach
huhtikuu 3, 2013, 9:55pm

Started reading it last night. So far, pretty interesting.

19inge87
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 7, 2013, 6:06pm

I saw this thread, picked up The Great Influenza at work, and read through the first section last night. I'm enjoying it, but I have to say that I found the tone a bit . . . triumphalist. Yes, American medicine improved greatly in the big cities on the coasts if you had the money, but most of the country was still many years behind the doctors at Johns Hopkins.

And even when the technology was there, it was often too expensive for most people to afford. Two of my grandfather's brothers died of Diphtheria within hours of each other in late 1916, because their sharecropper parents couldn't afford the city doctor and his "real" medicine. This was over twenty years after the anti-toxin's discovery.

I'm hoping that with the onset of the Influenza crisis in the narrative, this tone will diminish a little.

ETA: This does seem to be the case.

20clamairy
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 9:54am

*bump*

21streamsong
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2013, 10:25am

Whoops, sorry, I've deleted my post. You're right, I got my threads mixed up.

I've got this sitting here ready to be started, but haven't yet been able to start it. I may not get to it until after the first of the month.

22clamairy
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 10:05am

#21 - Um, I think you posted your link in the wrong place, streamsong. :o)

23Morphidae
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 10:24am

I got it started but it's slow going and just found out that I may need to bring it back to the library as there is a waiting list. Meh. I'll check it out again and keep going but there is no way I'll finish this in April.

24stellarexplorer
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 10:44am

Just received it and started it.

25SylviaC
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 5:37pm

I am on Chapter 12 now. I find that it is taking an inordinate amount of time to get around to the actual epidemic. At Chapter 6 I thought the author was going to get to the meat of it, but then he went back to filling in more background on the history of American medicine and the personalities of the doctors involved. I just don't need to know this much about what the doctors looked like, and where they lived, and whether they had many personal relationships.

26catzteach
huhtikuu 18, 2013, 9:55pm

I have about 1/4 of the book left. It did take forever to get to the actually epidemic. And now I feel like he is repeating himself. Also, I've noticed some really bad editing. That drives me nuts. Overall, I've found the subject matter interesting but the writing a bit dry.

27clamairy
huhtikuu 19, 2013, 10:31am

Yeah, I think it could have used a bit of tightening up.

28SylviaC
huhtikuu 19, 2013, 5:35pm

Things finally start moving in Chapter 14. I'm really getting into it now.

29stellarexplorer
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2013, 9:58pm

A lot of good info that I wasn't seeking. It's all a legitimate part of the story: the history of American medicine, the birth of the scientific approach to disease, etc. But it's anything but a tight story. I'm guessing Gina Kolata's Flu:The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It might be more readable. I'm not giving up though.

30stellarexplorer
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2013, 6:09pm

Unbelievable. It boggles my mind to try to fathom why he wrote this book this way. Almost no consideration of the attention and satisfaction of the reader. I'm 100 pages in, through sheer force of will.

It seems the early signs of the disease have finally appeared. And my lawn seems to be starting to grow as well.

31SylviaC
huhtikuu 20, 2013, 6:20pm

Don't get too excited yet—he's just going to go back to more background and personalities. But hang in there, things will get exciting in another 60 or 70 pages. Once I passed that point, I found it hard to put the book down. I'm almost done now.

32stellarexplorer
huhtikuu 20, 2013, 10:03pm

Thanks for the warning. It helps to know what you're up against! :)

33NorthernStar
huhtikuu 21, 2013, 1:56am

Our library had a copy of this, so I thought I'd give it a try. I do like reading about all kinds of natural disasters; however, I found this disorganized and full of lots of totally irrelevant details, as mentioned above. I did managed to finish it, with a break in the middle to read something else, but would have enjoyed it much more if it had been tightened up a lot. The author's style really started to grate on my by the end.

Plus, it was really just about the flu in the United States - any mention of the rest of the world was brief and sketchy.

34SylviaC
huhtikuu 21, 2013, 10:48am

I found lots of interesting information in the part of the book where he talked about the epidemic, but became irritated by his use of repetition as a dramatic device. Chapter 20 was the worst for this. A couple of examples were, "there was often pain, terrific pain, and the pain could come almost anywhere" and "The symptoms chilled laypeople, chilled them with winds of fear." But the worst was his repetition of "This was influenza, only influenza", and variations thereof. If anyone has the book in electronic format, I wish they would do a search for the phrase "only influenza", to see how often it occurs.

I enjoyed a lot of the book, and I'm glad I read it, but I won't be keeping it. I already own Flu by Gina Kolata and America's Forgotten Pandemic by Alfred W. Crosby, which both do a better job of telling the story, and do more follow-up. I would really like to find a book that gives a more international perspective on the pandemic.

35catzteach
huhtikuu 21, 2013, 12:48pm

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has found it to be disorganized. I think the book could have been quite a bit shorter. I still have a chapter or two to go, but it's been tough getting through the last chunk. I'm tired of his writing style. And I don't feel like he's telling me anything new.

36MrsLee
huhtikuu 21, 2013, 1:41pm

#30 - Your comment brought to mind the phrase, "Like watching grass grow." Maybe you could work that into your review? ;)

37stellarexplorer
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 21, 2013, 2:14pm

>30 stellarexplorer: Well yes, that was indeed the association I was aspiring to conjure. Glad you felt it!

Another 100 pages mowed, and there seems to be something going on. Not evidently a lethal pandemic, but something to get the attention. It can't be long now, he murmurs hopefully.

38NorthernStar
huhtikuu 21, 2013, 5:11pm

>34 SylviaC: - yes! You nailed it - the repetition of some phrases was one of the worst things that were getting to me about his style - especially "This was influenza, only influenza" I got more annoyed every time that phrase showed up again.

39clamairy
huhtikuu 22, 2013, 10:50am

LOL I had forgotten ALL about his "...only influenza" shtick. Yes, I did want to smack him upside the head for that. Even once would have been too many times to use a line like that. Still, overall, I liked the second half of the book.

40stellarexplorer
huhtikuu 22, 2013, 11:03am

I'm nearing p. 300, and appreciating it more. Even having complained about the first 200 pages, I'm now kind of glad to have absorbed all that. Frankly, I hadn't realized the extent of Wilson's curtailing of civil liberties during WWI. And I'm interested in the history of medicine, even though that wasn't what I picked up the book for.

41inge87
toukokuu 1, 2013, 7:01pm

Having reached the actual epidemic, I'm finding the writing a lot easier to get through -- except for the "only influenza" part, which reads like a bad novel. It seems that some things haven't changed much since 1918, and government inefficiency/stupidity in the face of disaster is definitely one of them.

42stellarexplorer
toukokuu 1, 2013, 10:25pm

Just finished. Agree fully on that unfortunate phrase. Beyond that though, I was satisfied. I understood by the end Barry's ambitions for the book, and from that point of view, I think it was largely a success. For the reader primarily interested in the influenza pandemic, much of the book is extraneous. But one doesn't always know what one would like to know before one learns it.

Like the author, I too have a fascination with the history of medicine and the scientific process. In the end, I enjoyed this more than I would have without the stuff I did not set out to read about!

43clamairy
toukokuu 2, 2013, 8:45am

#41 - Things haven't changed much at all. Though I do think a largish percentage of the population would understand the dangers and stay out of public places, if (and it's a big if) they were informed there was danger of a pandemic.

#42 - I am glad you ended up satisfied, stellar. :o)

44stellarexplorer
toukokuu 2, 2013, 5:46pm

I wish someone had written about the medical/scientific process and personalities in the years following the epidemic, when the principals were still alive. Or at least reliable witnesses were still available.

45inge87
toukokuu 3, 2013, 11:11am

>43 clamairy:, Definitely a big if. Although the government has slowly gotten better about informing people about important things. They censored weather advisories during World War II for national security reasons, but then people died in Texas and Louisiana when they didn't get enough warning for the 1943 "Surprise" Hurricane, and they haven't done that since. It's also a lot harder to censor things, since there are so many more ways to communicate than in 1918 or 1943. So I have hope that something like the war bond parade in Philadelphia wouldn't happen today.

>44 stellarexplorer:, Yes, the fact that everyone was traumatized and hushed up about the pandemic certainly hurt things. I found a copy of Pale Horse, Pale Rider at the library where I work and am looking forward to reading it, since Barry mentions it's one of the few accounts of the pandemic fictional or otherwise written by people who experienced it. It should be interesting.

46jennieg
toukokuu 3, 2013, 11:47am

One of my big regrets is that I didn't think to ask my father (b. 1910) what he remembered of the flu epidemic before he died.

47clamairy
toukokuu 3, 2013, 1:32pm

#46 - I remember my dad telling me that his infant sister died of influenza when he was 2 years old. (He was born April 25th, 1915.) But all he remembered of the event was that he got in trouble for stealing the coins off her eyes when she was laid out.

48jennieg
toukokuu 3, 2013, 2:12pm

#47 That's sad on so many counts.

49clamairy
toukokuu 3, 2013, 2:49pm

But he always laughed when he told the story! That's the Celts, for you. :o)

He's been gone 18 years now, so I can't pump him for more information.

50inge87
toukokuu 7, 2013, 3:08pm

I read Pale Horse, Pale Rider over the weekend, and it emphasizes certain points in The Great Influenza really well: the total focus on the war vs. little attention to the pandemic, the pressure for everyone to buy Liberty Bonds, and the total hysteria that took place once the illness arrived. It's a fairly brutal yet compelling take on the situation, and I really enjoyed it.

I definitely think that reading The Great Influenza first helped me appreciate it more than I would have otherwise though.

51Morphidae
kesäkuu 1, 2013, 12:23pm

I'm still SLOWLY working on this one. I just got past the point where WWI has started and Wilson has turned American upside down. I had no idea our government had been so... ugly.

52clamairy
kesäkuu 1, 2013, 1:53pm

:o/

53MerryMary
kesäkuu 1, 2013, 4:57pm

I've been reading a lot of WWI nonfiction lately, plus one fiction: The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen.

It was ugly, in so many ways. The vicious union strikes and battles, the government actions that squelched criticism, the Four Minute Men. Not a pretty memory.

54Morphidae
kesäkuu 17, 2013, 1:19pm

Nearing the end, I can see how the "it was influenza, only influenza" being repeated as being annoying as all get out.

55SylviaC
kesäkuu 17, 2013, 1:47pm

Isn't it, though. I don't know how any editor let that pass.

56stellarexplorer
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2013, 11:23pm

I have PTSD from repeating that phrase!

57Morphidae
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2013, 9:13pm

My review after finally finishing it:

First, the first third of the book was mostly about the history of medicine in America. Second, this book was almost too dry to read. Not quite enough to be unreadable, but not as easy as my usual pop science books. Lastly, I feel like everything was left unresolved. The author would build up the suspense, and then just drop everything. He'd set you up to think a doctor was about to find something or help was on the way. Then drop it and go to another doctor or another subject. Over and over. There never was a climax. It was very annoying. Not recommended.

5 out of 10 stars