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Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World Hardcover – 1 Jun 2017
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"With superb investigative skill and a delightfully light-hearted writing style, Spinney extends her analysis far beyond the relatively short duration of the plague... I’ve seldom had so much fun reading about people dying." (The Times)
"Weaves together global history and medical science to great effect ... Riveting." (Sunday Times)
"Both a saga of tragedies and a detective story... Pale Rider is not just an excavation but a reimagining of the past." (Guardian)
"Vividly recreated, grimly fascinating… Coolly, crisply and with a consistently sharp eye for the telling anecdote, Spinney ... demonstrates how the Spanish flu cast a long shadow over the 20th century." (Daily Mail)
"Impressive... packed with fascinating, quirky detail... As the centenary of this monumental event approaches, other volumes on the pandemic will undoubtedly appear. Pale Rider sets the bar very high." (Nature)
"Influenza, like all viruses, is a parasite. Laura Spinney traces its long shadow over human history… In Europe and North America the first world war killed more than Spanish flu; everywhere else the reverse is true. Yet most narratives focus on the West… Ms Spinney’s book goes some way to redress the balance." (The Economist)
"Laura Spinney provides a vivid account of the medical mysteries surrounding this exceptionally lethal disease and its long-term consequences. The main fascination of her wonderfully absorbing book lies in its international comparisons, reinforced by harrowing narratives of personal experiences… Pale Rider offers an important if unsettling reminder that stories about epidemics cannot be safely relegated to the past." (Patricia Fara BBC History Magazine)
"Engaging, delivering the necessary science in the tone of a trendy lecturer who is chatty and informal but always authoritative… The post-war world created treaties, organisations and protest groups to prevent global conflict recurring, yet the century’s biggest killer may have been something else entirely. This fascinating, frightening book will begin to redress that dangerous historical imbalance." (Julie McDowall Herald)
"Spinney, an admired science journalist, conjures the drama of the Spanish flu… Pale Rider is not just an excavation but a reimagining of the past… The renowned virologist John Oxford concurs: “H1N1 has a proven capacity to kill,” he says, “and we don’t need to be sitting here taking it like they did in 1918.” Spinney has ably lent her pen to the cause." (Colin Grant Guardian)
About the Author
Laura Spinney is a science journalist and a literary novelist. She is the author of two novels and her writing on science has appeared in National Geographic, Nature, The Economist and The Telegraph, among others. Born in the UK, she has also lived in France and Switzerland.
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In just a few weeks in October 1918 under a quarter of a million Britons dropped dead of horrible new disease; the afflicted slowly turned black as they drowned in their own blood and bodily fluids. The medical establishment was paralyzed with no idea of either the cause or how to treat the new contagion. As the dead piled up and WW1 reached its climax Lloyd George, the prime minister, was laid low by the disease. Yet thanks to wartime censorship the Spanish flu of 1918 has very little place in public memory; what has been described as the greatest disaster in human history has largely been forgotten. Laura Spinney thankfully has provided a reminder.