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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read with a flawed ending
Steven Johnson's narrative initially grabs you by the throat and the book is literally a page turner if there ever was one. A parade of the most appaling professions with which people eked out a meagre existence, the hairraising living conditions of the majority of Londoners and the very vivid and utterly dramatic description of the course of the disease (most people who...
Published on 2 Nov 2009 by JJA Kiefte

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but overlong
I read this after it was recommended on Radio 4's book club, and thought that it was generally pretty good. It was obviously well researched and the writing was engaging. My only complaint was that the story did not have enough substance to justify a book that is couple of hundred pages long. Initially, I really enjoyed the book, with its evocative descriptions of...
Published on 16 April 2008 by Kilgore Trout


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read with a flawed ending, 2 Nov 2009
By 
JJA Kiefte "Joost Kiefte" (Tegelen, Nederland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
Steven Johnson's narrative initially grabs you by the throat and the book is literally a page turner if there ever was one. A parade of the most appaling professions with which people eked out a meagre existence, the hairraising living conditions of the majority of Londoners and the very vivid and utterly dramatic description of the course of the disease (most people who contracted cholera died within 48 hours and knew it; they often saw their families dying before their very eyes without being able to do anything) makes you realise how lucky we are to be living in the present and not in Victorian times. But after 228 pages Johnson loses his thread somewhere and the remaining thirty-odd pages are quite frankly awfully boring and have little or no bearing on what went on before. An editor would have been welcome indeed. But since the lion's share of the book deserves eight stars and only the last tiny bit two, my verdict in the end would be five.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 16 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book a lot. It is packed full of interesting facts and anecdotes. I think I have now found the genre of writing which I enjoy the most, ie social history with a good story to ignite the imagination! This book is both entertaining and educational.
Perhaps the most interesting observation for me in this book is that of the obvious difficulty faced by Dr. Snow and later Reverend Whitehead when trying to persuade the establishment that it was the water and not the air which carried the disease. It is only 150 years since this happened and I find this vision of our ineptitude quite revealing! The author also includes on this subject an enlightening passage about how we have evolved an exaggerated aversion to odours of decay and putrefaction - probably as a self defence mechanism against the consumption of unsuitable food stuffs, and that this had a lot to do with the enthusiasm of the miasma theorists - `All smell is disease`.
Some of the reviewers of this book are critical of the epilogue, so I approached it with a little hesitancy. However, I did not find it particularly objectionable. The author does depart a little from the main subject of the Broad Street epidemic, and writes about the evolution of modern city culture, but I found some interesting material - `The Victorians could barely see microbial life-forms swimming in a petri dish in front of them. Today, a suspicious molecule floats by a sensor in Las Vegas, and within hours the authorities at the CDC in Atlanta are on the case.`
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but overlong, 16 April 2008
This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
I read this after it was recommended on Radio 4's book club, and thought that it was generally pretty good. It was obviously well researched and the writing was engaging. My only complaint was that the story did not have enough substance to justify a book that is couple of hundred pages long. Initially, I really enjoyed the book, with its evocative descriptions of Victorian London - night soil men and all. However, the author soon began repeating himself and labouring certain points (I lose count of how many times he stated that Dr Snow and Rev Whitehead were mutually dependent on each other when it came to solving the problem of how cholera is transmitted - but it felt like too many!) My overall impression was that this story would have made a good article, but that it had insufficient depth to require a book of this length.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read right up until the end, 30 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
The author told this tale of the first epidemiological study, and how it put an end to cholera in London, with such mastery of language and pacing. But then the last chapter was cobbled together by musing on the future, ruminating about potential threats to health, and making tenuous connections to John Snow's work. Still well worth reading, but the ending will ensure that it becomes dated rapidly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Highly palatable science!, 27 July 2009
By 
M. S. Steer (Suffolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
The history of a nineteenth century cholera outbreak may not sound like riveting reading, but it is utterly fascinating. The scientific detective story of the curate and the doctor who painstakingly unravel the complex web of infection, setting aside decades of mistaken theories, in order to solve the mystery, and thereby save countless lives, is told in a clear and compelling narrative. My only reservation is that the ending - which sets out the modern implications of their work (highly relevant in the face of swine flu) lacks the taut focus of the main story.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 18 May 2008
By 
D. Rook (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
A really well detailed account, and interesting history of the battle with Cholera by Dr. Snow and his colleagues in Victorian London. Anyone who is considering a profession in health care or studying medicine at university, i strongly recommend this book. It manages to portray health care at the time of the epedemic with plenty of background knowledge and scientific reasoning which makes it insteresting and very informative.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 3 July 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
Excellent read
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5.0 out of 5 stars One to pass onto friends, 22 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
A really good read! This is a true account of a crisis in British history that has often been overlooked.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good history, but skip the self-indulgent epilogue, 19 Feb 2013
By 
O. G. M. Morgan (Hants, England) - See all my reviews
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The history of how Dr John Snow saved London from cholera is well-known, but, as Steven Johnson shows, not as well-known as we may have thought. The role in providing decisive support for Snow's theory, concerning the Broad Street outbreak of 1854, actually fell to a curate named Whitehead, who used his immense local knowledge and the trust he had built up with parishioners (although I'd imagine a few of the locals weren't actually Anglicans by then) to fill in the last gap in the puzzle.

The irony, Johnson points out, is that Whitehead had initially been strongly opposed to Snow's ideas, but was won over to them during the course of his own investigations. The result didn't transform London overnight and can't even be said to have been behind the mighty Bazalgette sewer construction project (which Johnson rightly rates as the greatest London building project ever undertaken), but Snow's findings finally took root in the minds of the professionals in charge of London's public health.

It is a fascinating story and heart-breaking, of course, at many turns. For the most part, Johnson writes it well. I think he is a bit repetitive, however, and frequently discursive. There is a fairly wide divide between explanation and plain showing-off and Johnson quite frequently finds himself stranded on the wrong side of it.

My main complaint with this book, though, is the epilogue, which seems to go on forever. Yes, Johnson is striving to argue that Snow's mapping of the cholera outbreak set the standard for all sorts of analogous mapping in other contexts and demographics, but, beyond that, it's just tedious self-indulgence. He probably doesn't actually use the phrases "what if", "but, there again", or even "the above notwithstanding", but that will be because he churns out mighty stream-of-consciousness paragraphs to take their place.

Of course, he genuflects to "global warming". To be fair, he doesn't seem to consider the concept terribly apocalyptic, but it's a shame he didn't notice, even back in 2008, that the warming scare was the "miasma" theory de nos jours.

Definitely worth reading. Don't bother with the epilogue. On the Kindle, the map itself does look like a ghost, but I don't know if that is a shortcoming of the hardware, or somebody's idea of a joke.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Map, 30 Jan 2013
By 
G. Fisher "bloomsbury" (Nashville TN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. (Paperback)
Interesting and revealing ways of the times. It got to be somewhat boring later on in the book but
I would recommend it to anyone looking to find out how their ancestors lived, as I did.
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