So, this is the first theme ever for readingthepast
! I'm kind of making this up as I go along.
The theme for July will be Plagues and Pandemics
. It's a broad theme, not tied to any particular period of history, but obviously quite topical right now.
Some Wikipedia background:Pandemic
tells us about what a pandemic is. In short, it's an epidemic
that spreads across a wide geographical area and through much of the population. The Wikipedia page has a list of pandemics and notable epidemics, including:
* Plague of Athens
which killed 25% of the population in 430BC
* Black Death
, a pandemic of bubonic plague in the 14th century
* Great Plague of London
ca. 1665 (bubonic plague again)
* Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793
which killed 10% of the population of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (then capital of the fledgling United States)
* Various cholera pandemics in the 19th century, starting with the First Cholera Pandemic
which mostly hit Asia. The second pandemic
hit western Europe (you may have heard of the Broad Street cholera outbreak
of 1954), and there are numbered pandemics up to 7, which lasted until the 1960s.
* 1918-1919 Influenza epidemic aka Spanish Flu
, in the wake of WW1
* AIDS pandemic
ca. late 20th century to present
There are plenty more links to follow!
But now onto the historical novels. We had many suggestions, set during various epidemics/pandemics. Let's take them in historical order!Connie Willis, "The Doomsday Book"
is an SF novel about a near-future where Oxford University's history department has time travel. It follows the adventures of the first student to travel to the 14th century, and the difficulties face in the "present" as they deal with an outbreak of an unknown disease. Amazon
| WorldcatGeraldine Brooks, "Year of Wonders"
is about a village that quarantines itself through the Great Plague of 1665. The protagonist is a woman who tends to the dying in the isolated village.Amazon
| WorldcatLaurie Halse Anderson, "Fever 1793"
is a YA novel set during the yellow fever outbreak in Philadephia. I grabbed this from my library the other day, and it's a quick read and well written.Amazon
| WorldcatBarbara Hambly, "Fever Season"
I haven't read this one, but was looking for more varied perspectives. Looks to be a historical mystery novel with a black surgeon as protagonist, set during a cholera epidemic in New Orleans in the 1830s.Amazon
| WorldcatAnne Roiphe, "An Imperfect Lens"
Another one I found when searching for plagues and pandemics outside of Europe and the US. Cholera in Egypt in 1883. Looks like literary fiction, I think.Amazon
| WorldcatMay Agnes Fleming, "The Midnight Queen"
is a late 19th century Gothic novel about the Great Plague of London. I know nothing more about it!Gutenberg
| WorldcatDaniel Defoe, "A Journal of the Plague Year"
is an early 18th century account of the Great Plague of London. Reads like non-fiction, but is actually fiction. See Wikipedia
| WorldcatAllesandro Manzoni, "The Betrothed"
is an early 18th century novel which contains a description of the plague in Italy (ca. 1630) in chapters 31-33. Wikipedia compares Defoe's novel to it, and has a plot summary
which may be useful as the novel is long and the plague only appears at the end..Free online version (non-Gutenberg)
The above list is basically what I'm going to try to read. (Hey, I'm ahead, because I have read the first three already! It's my theme, after all!) Other books mentioned in comments on the theme suggestion post, but about which I know little or nothing and didn't have time to investigate, include:
O'Nan, "Prayer for the Dying"
Ann Benson, "Plague Tales" and "The Physician's Tale"
Naomi Wallace, One Flea Spare
Kim Stanley Robinson, "The Years of Rice and Salt" (post-Black-Death Alternate History)
John M. Barry, "The Great Influenza" (non-fiction)
Perhaps those who recced them can offer a little more detail in the comments. And please, if anyone has any more suggestions, keep them coming.
As I understand it, the plan now is for us to get hold of these books and start reading them, with the discussion of them officially running through the month of July. Though if you have thoughts/comments prior to that, please feel free to post them, and tag them with "theme: plagues and pandemics". In a week or two, when I've got a bit more of a handle on the books I haven't yet read, I'll be posting some thoughts on possible areas of discussion.
Happy reading! And remember, wash your hands regularly.