In 1918, the Italian-Americans of New York, the Yupik of Alaska, and the Persians of Mashed had almost nothing in common except for a virus -- one that triggered the worst pandemic of modern times and had a decisive effect on twentieth-century history.
The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was one of the greatest human disasters of all time. It infected a third of the people on Earth -- from the poorest immigrants of New York City to the king of Spain, Franz Kafka, Mahatma Gandhi, and Woodrow Wilson. But despite a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people, it exists in our memory as an afterthought to World War I.
In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind's vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the Spanish flu dramatically disrupted -- and often permanently altered -- global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts. It was partly responsible, Spinney argues, for pushing India to independence, South Africa to apartheid, and Switzerland to the brink of civil war. It also created the true "lost generation." Drawing on the latest research in history, virology, epidemiology, psychology and economics, Pale Rider masterfully recounts the little-known catastrophe that forever changed humanity.
I write this review as I am home-bound due to the 2020 COVID-19 flu. How timely and appropriate. (And I started reading before the coronavirus hit!)
Spinney includes a history - and prehistory - of flu, the microscopic actions that allow viruses to do their thing, the rights and wrongs of governmental response, the scientific breakthroughs that led to the understanding and actions on the flu, and much more. Even how the naming of the flu happened, and why that nomenclature changed - even though with COVID-19, the politicians are still playing the game.
Spinney is an engaging writer, so this is far from a drab reprisal of what happened. Worth a read at any time, and a prophetic warning of ignoring the signs for the future.
Book can be much shorter
Very little information about the actual 1918 flu. There was a lot of background information that had little relevance to the subject and not written very orderly. The book could probably be cut in half, had to stop reading midway because I couldn’t take it anymore.