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'A virtuoso feat ... a book of panoramic breadth' New York Times Book Review
'A devastating analysis ... Wright is a master of knitting together complex narratives' The Observer
Just as Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower became the defining account of our century's first devastating event, 9/11, so The Plague Year will become the defining account of the second.
The story starts with the initial moments of Covid's appearance in Wuhan and ends with Joseph Biden's inauguration in an America ravaged by well over 400,000 deaths - a mortality already some ten times worse than US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam War.
This is an anguished, furious memorial to a year in which all of America's great strengths - its scientific knowledge, its great civic and intellectual institutions, its spirit of voluntarism and community - were brought low, not by a terrifying new illness alone, but by political incompetence and cynicism on a scale for which there has been no precedent.
With insight, sympathy, clarity and rage, The Plague Year allows the reader to see the unfolding of this great tragedy, talking with individuals on the front line, bringing together many moving and surprising stories and painting a devastating picture of a country literally and fatally misled.
'Maddening and sobering - as comprehensive an account of the first year of the pandemic as we've yet seen' Kirkus
Pestilence, tumult, and the horror of Trumpism roil this scattershot survey of 2020. Pulitzer-winning New Yorker journalist Wright (The End of October) reviews the course of the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying upheavals, from the first wave through the summer of protest and the frenzied aftermath of the 2020 election. He emphasizes the CDC's delays in rolling out virus tests, skimpy and chaotic procurement of personal protective equipment, and persistent efforts by President Trump to downplay the pandemic's seriousness. Wright paints an especially revealing portrait of White House policymaking based on insider accounts by staffers including deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, who lobbied the Trump administration to take the virus more seriously. Unfortunately, the treatment of major controversies tends to be one-sided and overwrought. Wright likens the Capitol rioters to "Visigoths breaking through the gates of Rome," treats opposition to lockdowns and mask mandates as the preserve of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, and generally bemoans the "cyclonic forces of fascism and nihilism" besieging America. The result is an immersive and richly detailed yet contentious take on recent history that provokes more than enlightens.