THE PLAGUE OF THE SPANISH LADY by Richard Collier

THE PLAGUE OF THE SPANISH LADY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A massive account rendered of the flu epidemic of 1918 which had as many names almost as the countries round the world it afflicted--among them ""the disease of the wind."" One sneeze could generate 85,000 bacteria and while ""the pandemic"" began in the fifth year of WW II, it outlasted the Armistice and killed 21 million people. Perhaps it was best described as ""air-hunger"" breathing, worst when victims were ""blue as huckleberries and spitting blood""; people slumped and died everywhere. And just as surely in the overcrowded hospitals--in Boston the death rate reached 50%. In Collier's cortege here, there are nurses, doctors, health officers, famous people who have supplemented this chronology with their own memories of where they were and what they saw or endured. The material ranges from the incidental (jokes--the child who was told he'd dug up his grandfather twice already) to the formidable (the Berlin doctor who never left the hospital he attended for two months of night and day care). The technique is much the same as Collier applied most recently in Duce! for which he was generally faulted--namely a mass of material you cannot overlook handled in feature journalese (""Rarely in the history of mankind had so many volunteers toiled so long or so patiently in the service of humanity"" etcetera). A little like Jim Bishop made respectable, or Woodham-Smith's potato famine made less respectable albeit more stringently dramatic. And ominous in the face of our disregard of prophylactic measures when the ""Russian fever"" or the ""Chinese sickness' might flare up again.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1974
Publisher: Atheneum