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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The number one New York Times best seller.

In 1918, the world faced the deadliest pandemic in human history. What can the story of the so-called Spanish Flu teach us about the fight against present day crises and how to prepare for future outbreaks?

At the height of WWI, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in 24 months than AIDS killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. 

Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the aftermath of Covid-19 and future pandemics looming on the horizon. 

©2004 John M. Barry (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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An Epic Narrative

The historical detail and the research that has gone into making this book is truly monumental. This book is a must read and re-read not only for a lay person but even for the scientific community and the suffering and sacrifice of that pandemic will echo for long. It holds several lessons for us in these Covid times.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-01-21

Why do I not know this story already?!

100 million dead, overwhelmingly the young and the fit. Authorities not knowing what to do. Children starving to death as their parents died and neighbours too scared of the disease to come and help.

Why do we not know the story of the 1918/19 Flu pandemic as well as we know that of WWI, WWII and the Holocaust?

If anything we should know it better as the risk of it happening again was so stark. As COVID-19 shows. Thankfully the latter is a mild strain in comparison.

This book is perhaps overly long and focuses overwhelmingly on the USA (where the virus, despite it’s name as ‘The Spanish Flu’ probably started). The diversions into the emergence of American Medicine are however interesting. At the turn of the 20th century, lack of public funds and a believe in deregulation which gave rise to quackery and a lack of public trust, meant US medicine and medical research lagged far behind Europe.

The key story however is one that should be taught to every schoolchild and politician.

Because the book was written and recorded before Covid-19, the afterword is particularly depressing. The author concludes that only far greater spending and preparedness on a further flu outbreak will save thousands of lives and only politicians willing to invest in advance, and tell the truth when an outbreak occurs can prevent a feeling of terror, helplessness and economic collapse.

This should have been put on Netflix 6 months ago. Essential listening.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-02-21

Wonderful book

I loved this book. Reading it while COVID - 19 pandemic in progress is surreal and eye opening. Please read it and make a better world tommorow.

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  • Mr. R. Bruce
  • 31-01-21

Very interesting and informative..

Enjoyed this book very much clear and concise information about a virus that could be happening now and you compare both the 1918 virus as Covid19 uncanny who the seem to have the same journey and response from countries and governments in both centuries!?? 👀

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  • Poulton95
  • 15-01-21

Detailed and Interesting

I enjoyed the whole audiobook but personally I found the second half of the book more interesting and more about influenza than the first though as my background is biology that may be personal preference as the first part was about the development of research institutions in the US. Narration was very good.

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  • WILLIAM A.
  • 08-10-20

A must read/listen

Beautifully written, excellently researched and put together to give such an amazing lesson on the history, thoughts, fears and dedication of all those fighting and living through this period, and a shocking reminder of more recent events and the lessons we just didn’t listen to, as a species and of our respective governments!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-10-20

Potent truth's

I have been enlightened. Not only does the listener receive a dose of knowledge but a stirring story with acknowledgement of the forgotten
men and women who committed lifetime to the advancement of science. Top shelf.

1 person found this helpful