Very, very, very dreadful The influenza pandemic of 1918

Albert Marrin

Book - 2018

In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.--Provided by Publisher.

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf [2018]
First edition
Item Description
Includes bibliographic notes, references (pages 183-190) and index.
Physical Description
198 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 183-190) and index.
Main Author
Albert Marrin (author)
  • Prologue: The great-granddaddy of them all
  • The pitiless war
  • Diseases of war
  • Puny man: drowning in the second wave
  • A fear and panic : influenza and American society
  • To the bitter end
  • A detective story.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Acclaimed for incisive explorations of America's bleakest moments, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Flesh & Blood So Cheap, 2011) to WWII-era Japanese internment camps (Uprooted, 2016), Marrin homes in on the "most deadly disease event in the history of humanity." Raging from early 1918 to mid-1920, the influenza pandemic, aptly dubbed the "devil virus," crescendoed in three lethal waves, spanned continents, and claimed an estimated 50- to 100-million lives worldwide. In six riveting chapters, Marrin examines the virus's precursors, including past plagues and prior medical breakthroughs, its aftermath, and its festering backdrop—the congested trenches and training camps of WWI. While the pandemic's scope is broad and undiscerning, Marrin's approach is the opposite. With razor-sharp precision, he carefully presents genetic mutations, coffin shortages, the disease's devastating grip on colonized Africa, the direct correlation between women working as nurses and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and much more. Marrin's conclusion, too, pulls no punches; after all, when it comes to future pandemics, it's not a matter of if one will occur, but when. Fusing hard science and "jump-rope rhymes," first-person accounts and crystalline prose, cold reason and breathtaking sensitivity, Marrin crafts an impeccably researched, masterfully told, and downright infectious account—complete with lurid black-and-white photos throughout. This is nonfiction at its best. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Marrin (Uprooted) presents a gripping analysis of "history's worst-ever health disaster," the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected 500 million people worldwide ("one-third of the human race at the time") over an 18-month period. Moving easily through relevant background, from the development of urban centers to contemporary medical practices, he identifies two primary factors: the wretched and overcrowded conditions of WWI battlegrounds, hospitals, and training camps, combined with ignorance of the cause of and best ways to contain influenza. Modern transportation methods, prioritizing war over health, a weakened civilian population, and a virulent mutation of the virus all contributed to the staggering death toll (estimated at between 50 million and 100 million). An engrossing chapter addresses the U.S. response, uncoordinated efforts to combat the pandemic that were often essentially "worthless." Much of the current understanding of the contagion derives from research done since the 1930s; Marrin's lucid presentation of it concludes with a sobering assessment of the risks of a similar pandemic, perhaps involving a mutated strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus as "the ultimate terrorist weapon." Archival photos, notes, and reading suggestions are included. Ages 12–up. (Jan.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 7 Up—Seasoned nonfiction author Marrin returns with a thorough and entertaining telling of the Influenza Pandemic that swept the world during World War I, described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history." The narrative relays the progress of human disease from hunting and gathering days to the rise of "scientific medicine," with a discussion of biological agents from bacteria to viruses. Readers experience the public health crisis from its believed beginning in Kansas through its evolution from outbreak to epidemic to pandemic. The story allows for the wider context of the intertwined fates of the war and the disease, from trenches to overcrowded hospitals. Marrin's story of the flu in his own family (fighting with the Red Army, his father was stricken while stationed in Siberia and survived) adds an interesting personal touch. This anecdote emphasizes a key point: the pandemic was unique in its target population in that it disproportionately affected young adults. Marrin's exhaustive research leaves no topic untouched. The back matter of extensive notes and suggestions for further reading emphasize the meticulous degree of Marrin's research. Pair with Makiia Lucier's A Death-Struck Year for a fictional complement with a personalized perspective. VERDICT A solid nonfiction selection to middle and high school collections that emphasizes history, defense strategy, and medicine.—Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Examines the history, science, and impact of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, as well as the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic--and its chilling and timely resemblance to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people--one-third of the global population at the time--came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million. In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge--and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year!