Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Comes a Time for Burning (Steven Havill)

Cholera strikes the people of Port McKinney, Washington, in 1892. Drs. Parks and Hardy, both New Englanders fairly new to the West Coast, race to stop the disease before it wipes out the entire town.

The writing itself isn’t great— somewhat choppy. The characters are flat and rather stock, with stories hinted at but not revealed. But I still enjoyed the book for its historical perspective. I’m fascinated by epidemics, by all those grave markers in various cemeteries we’ve visited where whole families are buried, taken by cholera or some other disease.

The author did a great job of detailing the disease itself; I’m sure I felt twinges in my stomach a few times when he described the smells of cholera. The techniques used by the doctors were also fascinating. I'm putting The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump on my TBR list. Its description reads: "In this gripping book, Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow, a reclusive doctor without money or social position, who--alone and unrecognized--had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and uncover the truth behind the pandemic. She describes how Snow discovered that cholera was spread through drinking water and how this subsequently laid the foundations for the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues." Sounds fascinating!

Linked up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books


DebD said...

I just recently read "Ghost Map" which is the non-fiction book about the Broad Street epidemic. The book itself wasn't quite what I had hoped, but the story is quite fascinating. I'll have to put "The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump" on my list. Thanks for the review of "A Time For Burning" although I may pass it up.

F.a.Ellis said...


Cozy in Texas said...

It sounds like more time was spent on historical background than the characters themselves. I too like to read books with historical facts.