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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars creative journalism
The Penguin edition restores Defoe's original punctuation, with a capital for nouns and colons for stops, so the writing has the vitality, weight and elasticity of Defoe's authentic style. I wish Penguin's print was more comfortable to read and blacker.

I first read this book in the early 1970s as a work of fiction because it has been classified as such since...
Published on 3 April 2006 by DH Dixon

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hard work but worth the effort
I enjoyed reading this book, but found it rather laborious at times, and it did not flow well. In fairness, given it was written over 300 years ago, it tells of the life Londoners were living in the plague years. It was quite frightening imagining the crude methods they had for containing the plague, and the lack of sanitation, and housekeeping they were able to employ...
Published on 21 Oct 2011 by T. Gardener


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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars creative journalism, 3 April 2006
By 
DH Dixon "whitespeck" (England) - See all my reviews
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The Penguin edition restores Defoe's original punctuation, with a capital for nouns and colons for stops, so the writing has the vitality, weight and elasticity of Defoe's authentic style. I wish Penguin's print was more comfortable to read and blacker.

I first read this book in the early 1970s as a work of fiction because it has been classified as such since the 19th century, and I found the "plot" dull. When I read it again twenty years later I realized why - this book isn't fiction at all, it is a factual account of what happened in London in 1665, based on his uncle Henry Foe's eyewitness experience, which is blended with Defoe's journalistic research after the event. The result is a marvellous work of journalism that has the vividness of an eyewitness account, taking the reader right into the events, and the mastery of Defoe's talent and research of the whole subject. The eyewitness account is turned into a most vivid masterpiece.

If you try to read the Journal of the Plague Year as fiction it will seem dated because it can't satisfy as such. It doesn't have any of the effects that go with fiction such as plot, fantasy, author's whim, or character development. However it is beautifully constructed.

The Journal of the Plague Year is a great work of journalism and is (as far as I know) the most vivid account of any historic event in English. It is great to read and browse in as well.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book!, 4 Mar 2005
By 
Lei-Lei Jayenne (Leytonstone, London) - See all my reviews
This is a brilliant history book, written as fiction by Defoe, who was 5-years-old and stayed living in London throughout the Plague of 1665. He wrote this book some years later from his remembrances of things he saw and heard. Placing himself in the character of a young man, we read stories of great sorrow and great hope alike. Giving us a fascinating insight into the nature of varied human responses to tragedy and disaster. So we learn about people who put their own lives on the line going out to work sometimes in the houses of the already infected just to be able to feed and clothe their family, and then we learn about disturbing characters who used the opportunity for their own ill-gotten gains. It's disturbing to learn that young women were still attacked and raped in the streets of London, and houses were still robbed despite having the 'cross' sign of the Plague infection on their doors.
The book doesn't just centre on the streets of London but travels into the surrounding countryside, remember even places like Walthamstow were at the time considered to be outside London, and very much the countryside.
During it's worst months, thousands of people, both infected and not, were attempting an escape to what they thought was the safety of the country, only to be confronted with pitch-fork wielding locals at the village gates telling them to go away in no uncertain terms. But of course even these people succumbed in the end.
This is not a pleasant read, what with Plague pit descriptions, stories of babies suckling the breasts of their long-dead mothers, and in-depth descriptions of the symptoms. But i believe it's an important read, being both an interesting look at the human psyche and behaviour patterns in a time of great distress, panic and fright, and also as probably the most accurate account of one of this country's most tragic years.
The book touches on the Great Fire of 1666 aswell, and the conclusion the reader is lead to, is that London was a completely different place following those 2 events, even to this very day. A particularly riveting read if you are either a Londoner by birth or live in London.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Bring Out Your Dead!", 5 Oct 2009
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Journal of the Plague Year (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
Fiction it might be, though apparently based on the diaries of his uncle Henry Foe (the H.F. who purportedly authors the account) Daniel Defoes "Journal of the Plague Year" is a fascinating account of the Bubonic plague that struck London in the year 1665.

While essentially a work of fiction, the level of detail, the statistics, anecodotes and endless conjecturing give the work a strong semblance of veracity. The reader is compelled to read on through the terrifying details of a plague that in all probability took around 100,000 lives during the year that it raged. One of the interesting features of the book is the conflict between science and religion, is a continuous thread throughout. Defoes author H.F. writes in a profoundly religous tone, early on in the book a group of mocking aetheists who coarsely drink and curse their way through the plague are, each and everyone, struck down and deposited in the communal grave before two pages are out. At the same time there is a recognition of scientific attempts to understand and control the plague, the shutting up of houses is much discussed as well as the variety of "preventatives" that offer protection from infection. Much of the book is given over to a variety of speculations, and given the state of medical science at the time of writing a good many of the conjectures verge on the amusing. The author even tells of one theory, of small organisms in the blood, only to scoff at it while the modern reader may sense as good a description of bacteria as that age could furnish.

A good deal of the facts are horrifying, whole families dying, the nightly horse and cart patrols to collect the dead for communal graves, people maddened by the infection running through the streets unhindered, the dying screams of those shut up in their homes to die. It is a puzzle at first where they find men to collect the dead and women to nurse the sick until later in the book the author contemplates the plight of the poor. It simply seems that if they did not take these jobs they would have starved to death as all other industry and employment had ground to a halt, the risk of dying of the plague seemed a better bet than the certainty of dying of starvation.

Definitely an interesting book though some may find the grotesque grammer and lengthy sentences a little too much. The edition I purchased was from Dover classics and consisted of just the journal itself and I felt my ability to get the most from the book was undermined by not having the additional context that a good set of footnotes and introduction should provide.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Imagination, 14 Dec 2007
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This review is from: A Journal of the Plague Year (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
Imagine every other person in your social circle, family, friends, workplace and high street dropping dead. This was the reality of the Black Death, at least in the more crowded settlements. A tragedy beyond imagination that Defoe brings alive.

It's not the mortality that grips you, catastrophic as they were, but how people, even close relatives, shunned each other because of the near-certainty of contracting the disease and ending up dead themselves.

It's probably my duty to highlight, too, that the Black Death was almost certainly not bubonic plague as it doesn't fit the facts of how the disease spread, but hemorrhagic fever. One of the key pieces of evidence is the outbreak of plague in Iceland, which is known not to have harboured a rat population at that time.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and at times quite grisly, 7 Aug 1999
By A Customer
What I like best about DeFoe is that he is very readable and can hold your attention for hours. Sure, he can contradict himself at times and he does have a flair for repetition and while he is not above pointing out the obvious, DeFoe is extremely interesting. "A Journal of the Plague Year" contains all the things DeFoe is noted for including a sharp eye for detail and sly humour. I liked this book and recommend it mainly because much of what DeFoe observed about human nature in the early 18th century is still relevant today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning, 27 Feb 2006
this is my all-time favourite book. the descriptions of the disease are so vital. the book gives a great overview of how life was like back then. being written in an autobiographical style (although the main character is fictional) this book is much better than obviously fictional work on this period. The numerous mentioning of christian religion bothered me at first, but after all that's just part of what life was like back then. there are episodes in this book which I'll never forget, like the mentioning of a man who survived the disease by running around town and swimming across the Thames. An interesting history lesson and, furthermore, a book with very inspiring thoughts on what to make out of life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hard work but worth the effort, 21 Oct 2011
By 
T. Gardener "red giraffe" (essex) - See all my reviews
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I enjoyed reading this book, but found it rather laborious at times, and it did not flow well. In fairness, given it was written over 300 years ago, it tells of the life Londoners were living in the plague years. It was quite frightening imagining the crude methods they had for containing the plague, and the lack of sanitation, and housekeeping they were able to employ at the time. Particularly fascinating was the story of the men who left London for the uninfected suburbs to find they ended up in my town, which thankfully was plague free !
This would also be a good read for any teenager studying early London life for history, and reminds us how far we have evolved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very laborious indeed, 30 May 2013
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I am amazed that this book has got so many 5 star reviews, the author, even for his day has an extremely tedious habit of spelling everything out several times over, if someone were to write an abridged version giving the same facts and details it would end up being less than half the length. To summarise my sentiments, it's rather like the horrible modern habit that many commercial television programmes have, for the supposedly brain dead, of repeating everything immediately before and after the commercial break and then again during the programme. Some of us are lucky enough to get things after being told them once thank you. I'm afraid that I never finished this book because of the above.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 17th Century Docu-Soap account of the Plague., 29 April 2000
By 
I was interested in this book because it promised an account by one who was there and not by student historians who make a living by guessing our past. The gripping eye-witness descriptions make up for the often tedious death toll listings which, once you've read one are best skipped over. A symapthetic view - not too dark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 17 Aug 2009
This is a great book. I found the style heavy going at first, but once I got into it I found this book impossible to put down - this is a glimpse into the past that we should be grateful has survived to still be with us.

For me, this puts any current hardships into perspective, the suffering of the people in this era is unimaginable, yet the book still manages to be tinged with some light-hearted and even comic moments.

The flow of this book can best be described as meandering, which I think adds to its unique appeal and creates the sense of journey that the narrator is undertaking.
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A Journal of the Plague Year (Dover Thrift Editions)
A Journal of the Plague Year (Dover Thrift Editions) by Daniel Defoe (Paperback - 28 Mar 2003)
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