Pale Rider by Laura Spinney
The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

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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.
-Guardian

Synopsis


With a death toll between fifty and one hundred million people across the globe, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was one of the greatest human disasters of all time. Nevertheless, it exists in our memory as a mere footnote to World War I

In Pale Rider, Laura Spinney recounts the story of this overlooked pandemic, tracing it from Alaska to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, and from South Africa to Odessa. Through the point of view of those who lived through it, she shows how the flu was shaped by the interaction of the virus with the humans it encountered and how this devastating natural experiment put both the vulnerability and the ingenuity of mankind to the test.

Drawing on the latest research in history, virology, epidemiology, psychology, and economics, Laura Spinney narrates a catastrophe that changed humanity for decades to come. In doing so, she reveals that the Spanish flu was as significant--if not more so--as the two world wars in shaping the modern world by disrupting, and often permanently altering, global politics, race relations, family structures, and ingenuity across medicine, religion, and the arts.

With a death toll between fifty and one hundred million people across the globe, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was one of the greatest human disasters of all time. Nevertheless, it exists in our memory as a mere footnote to World War I.

In Pale Rider, Laura Spinney recounts the story of this overlooked pandemic, tracing it from Alaska to Brazil, from Persia to Spain, and from South Africa to Odessa. Using firsthand accounts, Spinney's vivid narrative shows how the Spanish flu evolved as a result of the humans it encountered and how this devastating virus exposed our vulnerability and put the ingenuity of mankind to the test.

Drawing on the latest research in history, virology, epidemiology, psychology, and economics, Laura Spinney narrates a catastrophe that changed humanity for decades to come. In doing so, she reveals that the Spanish flu was as significant--if not more so--as the two world wars in shaping the modern world by disrupting, and often permanently altering, global politics, race relations, family structures, and ingenuity across medicine, religion, and the arts.
 

About Laura Spinney

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Laura Spinney is a science journalist and a literary novelist. She has published two novels in English, and her writing on science has appeared in National Geographic, Nature, The Economist, and The Telegraph, among others. Her oral history portrait of a European city, Rue Centrale, was published in 2013 in French and English.
 
Published September 12, 2017 by PublicAffairs.
Genres: History, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Pale Rider
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on May 31 2017

Researchers are working to improve today’s only modestly protective vaccine; Spinney expresses hope. Readers who worry about Ebola, Zika, or SARS should understand that epidemiologists agree that a recurrence of the 1918 virus would be worse. Short on optimism but a compelling, expert account of a half-forgotten historical catastrophe.

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The Economist

Above average
on May 25 2017

Yet most narratives focus on the West, and only partly because that is where the best records are. Ms Spinney’s book goes some way to redress the balance.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Colin Grant on Jul 22 2017

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.

Read Full Review of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu o... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Miranda Seymour on Jun 04 2017

The enduring message of Spinney’s magisterial work is to underline just how crucial that remarkable service is to the future security of an unusually privileged nation. Let’s hope the author’s book is read with care by Theresa May.

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