My husband Mike was a great reader but his taste in reading material was generally quite different than my own. He read a great deal of nonfiction, a great deal of history.
For some reason — social distance boredom? — I picked up a book that was in his section of the bookcase in our living room. It was a former New York Times best seller with a copyright of 2004, 2005. At the time, the Boston Globe called it ‘Compelling and timely.”
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry.
Boston Globe: “Terrifying and compelling.”
Newsweek: “Terrifying . . . The lessons of 1918 couldn’t be more relevant.” (hasn’t changed)
Los Angeles Times: “Barry puts the pandemic in a context of medical, national, and world history . . . His well-researched and well-written account raises the obvious question: Could it happen again. And the answer is: Of course it could.”
There are so many eerie echoes — rampant fear and anger at immigrants, egoistic leaders making decisions, overwhelmed hospitals without the personnel or medicines to cope, distrust of science, empty city streets, failure of people to take the situation seriously until it was too late. It is not a read for the faint of heart.
In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Churchill slightly changed the quote when he said (paraphrased), “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” and George Santayana-1905 said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana-1905).
It is well written and very sobering.