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What readers think of The Great Influenza, plus links to write your own review.

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The Great Influenza

The Epic Story of the 1918 Pandemic

by John M. Barry

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry X
The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 496 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2005, 560 pages

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There are currently 9 reader reviews for The Great Influenza
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Prodigiously Researched and Expertly Written, This Book Has Ramifications for Today and Covid-19
History DOES repeat itself. I read this book about the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, and the similarities are chilling—especially the many elected officials who first mocked it and later denied it, not only radically increasing the number of cases and deaths, but also posing a public health threat to the overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted health care workers.

Expertly written by John M. Barry, this is what I think of as a real history book. There are facts and figures and more facts and figures that are interrupted with stories of people, mostly the incredibly dedicated and hardworking scientists who were trying to understand this mysterious new disease and stop it with a vaccine, all while the bloviating public officials were busy denying it and putting the public at even greater risk.

As with all good historical accounts, this one begins at the beginning. In this case, the beginning is a lengthy account of the state of medicine and medical education starting around the time of the American Civil War—long before ever mentioning the first instance of flu. While parts of it are absolutely riveting, other parts are a bit longwinded and borderline tedious. Still, every bit of it is important and must be part of this story if the full history is to be told properly.

Find out:
• Why it was popularly called the "Spanish flu," even though it seems to have started in Haskell, Kansas.
• President Woodrow Wilson's absolutely shocking response to the virus as millions died worldwide.
• The best and most understandable description of antibodies and how they function in the human body that you will ever read.
• Why newspapers were not permitted to honestly report what was happening.
• The mind-boggling reason why young adults were far more likely to die from this influenza than the elderly.
• A detailed and quite comprehensible medical explanation of the flu's symptoms and the devastating effect they had on the human body.

Prodigiously researched and intelligently written for the common reader, this is a vitally important and at times utterly fascinating examination of a terrifying time in our history that has very real ramifications for today and our Covid-19 pandemic.
Margaret

The Great Influenza
As a nurse, I found it amazing. The author explained things in such a way anybody could understand. It scared me and amazed me.
KC

Great Information
I found this book to be very enlightening and learned a lot about the disease, the times, the mentality, and the sciences of the day. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to know about this tragic time in our history. I found it easy to ready, which cannot always be said for books in this genre.
Anne Howard

The Great Influenza
At first you wonder why John M. Barry is going way back to the early 1800's to talk about 1918. Then, as you are drawn into the history, like emerging into the wide end of a funnel, you get it. The history of medical education and practice, the political climate in WWI, the social situation in large and small communities, all are necessary to begin to comprehend the enormity of the crisis.

Then you think, "But we know better now." Do we?
Alex Sheach

Outstanding detailed and complete. Barry not only describes the progress of the epidemic, but also examines the society it ravaged. Detailed biographies of the major medical and scientific professionals involved include insight into their individual characters and how those characteristics manifested during the fight against the disease.
Alan

The Great Influenza
This book I read for my English class and I thought it was a very touching book about one of the most deadliest plagues in History.
Sandra Franklin

Good information but poorly written
I appreciated the information in this book, but it appears that Mr. Barry has never diagramed a sentence in his entire life. Very poor sentence structure, and hopelessly repetitive when trying to make different points about the same subject. The book could have been reduced by half if Mr. Barry knew how to write.

Where were the editors for this book? They certainly missed their opportunity.

In Chapter 28, page 323, Mr. Barry refers to a Mrs. George Wharton Pepper as being a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, however, that is rather an impossible thing to be since Mr. Franklin had no children.
Tony Montana

Garbage
This book was trash. It was redundant, and, upon reading the first page, I would rather get the Great Influenza than continue reading it.
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