Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

Genre: Nonfiction
Secondary Genre: history, world history
CW: health, death

This poorly titled book1 covers the history of the Spanish Flu (I’ve been reading about it a lot. For many reasons). I wasn’t super keen about it at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t DNF.

The first chapters start off slow, and the author seems confused about what age group he’s talking about. On the one hand, he discusses higher concepts, but on the other he stops mid-text to define words like “archaeology” and “pus.” This introduction is followed up by a chapter on pre-history and how diseases impacted ancient nomadic populations. I don’t think we got to pertinent information until about the 20% mark, at which point I would normally DNF a book if it doesn’t hold my attention. Life is too short for bad books.

I’m glad I didn’t, however. The best part about this book is the way it doesn’t merely focus on American/British/Allied nations during WWI and the Spanish Flu, but takes an equal look at South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, particularly India, which was the hardest hit of any country. The author even discussed the effect on Axis nations, and despite all the research I’ve done, very few English language books spare a thought for countries other than America, England, France, and occasionally Australia, let alone the countries they were fighting.

Finally, the last chapter of the book looks to the future of disease control and evolution, and was absolutely fascinating. If you are looking for an international overview of the 1918 epidemic, this would be a really good book to pick up; it’s not super long, and you can probably skip first two chapters without actually missing anything.

1 The title actually comes from a statement quoted in the book, but personally I would have picked something a bit more…punchy.