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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The number one New York Times best seller.

In 1918, the world faced the deadliest pandemic in human history. What can the story of the so-called Spanish Flu teach us about the fight against present day crises and how to prepare for future outbreaks?

At the height of WWI, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in 24 months than AIDS killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. 

Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza is ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, which provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the aftermath of Covid-19 and future pandemics looming on the horizon. 

©2004 John M. Barry (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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Important message to learn from the past

History repeats itself and we must learn from it. Extensive research done by the author. Maybe a book rather to read than to listen to. Although the narrator is an award winning actor for my ears over the top and hard to listen to for this topic.

5 people found this helpful

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Potent truth's

I have been enlightened. Not only does the listener receive a dose of knowledge but a stirring story with acknowledgement of the forgotten
men and women who committed lifetime to the advancement of science. Top shelf.

3 people found this helpful

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This knowledge is available yet we are unprepared

This book is brilliant and very thorough. With all this known in 2004 how can the governments of the world be so un-prepared for this covid-19 pandemic. It is also scary to think about how the USA transformed into an authoritarian regime as no-one could speak truth without being accused of being a traitor to the war effort. Again there are so many parallels to our covid-19 pandemic where an authoritarian regime withheld information. So sad we cannot learn from our past mistakes

2 people found this helpful

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An Amazing Story Well Read

I really enjoyed this interesting book which has so much to say to us about our present pandemic. Although written before the present Coverd 19 pandemic, the cast of heroes and villains are familiar to us. The text itself is occasionally overstated and breathless; every scientist seems to be the most distinguished in his field, every laboratory at the top of its form, every crisis unpredictable and devastating. This is a minor qualification, however , and the overall effect is very positive. The writer makes a few concessions to non-scientific readers but this is a positive, I’m sure. Be prepared to learn a great deal more about viruses and research than you ever thought you wanted to know.

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Well researched, well told, but entirely US-centric

Perhaps the title of the book should be: The Great Influenza In America. After reading the book, one might believe that the only medical experts dealing with the flu were in America, just as the only sufferers were Americans. That said, the research and the reconstruction of the flu's unfolding in America, along with the medical and scientific responses is brilliant.

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  • Jon
  • 09-05-2022

A marvellous book

So much information, and so intelligently told. This is a book I’d like in print as well for checking facts now and then.

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should be a movie

Brilliant read. can see history repeating everyone should know what is in this book.
There are so many storylines that could create entertaining and massively informative movies. The script writers of Netflix 'Don't Look Up' should have a field day with this. I feel enlightened.

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The Great Influenza by John M.Barry

Well we are up to Covid 19 people died and W.H.O. covered up for china . but it is scary Thank you John M. Barry & Thank you Scott Brick for reading to me 💜💜

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SOBERING

Now that the next great pandemic is here I am certainly glad that, for the most part, we seem to have learnt at least some lessons from 1918. That flu was definitely more scary than Covid however, despite the fact that we are yet to have the third wave ( although at the time of writing this I think it is exploding in China). This is an absolute must read on so many levels. The pure joy of history, the fascination of how far we have come in medical practice and sophistication during the 20th century (and yet how far we still have to go) and as a potential warning of the very many mistakes made during that previous pandemic. It is also an excellent read for anyone stupid enough to be an anti-vaxxer in this day and age and yet clever enough to be saved from their own stupidity. The story of how vaccines work due to their early development is a fascinating listen. The tragedy of the times was certainly underplayed during my lifetime, it's almost as if it has been fated to be expunged from history. The actual horror of those years cannot be stated too strongly. History will repeat itself and we need to remember how to deal with it.

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  • Esperanza
  • 06-03-2021

2.5

I should know the focus in this book was US. I was expecting a more global book/approach and I did not get it. Still good book to read despite the repetitions and, in many ocassions, bad structure of the narrative. It was published before Covid19 and that gives a different value to the book, in particular for chapters talking about the future. Chapter 4 and Afterwords are the key chapters if you want to know about Influenza. It shocked to me how obvious was for many "people" what was coming. The rest of the book is about how NA confronted the pandemic (or just not confronted, specially in some states), US medicine state before, during and after pandemic and how politicians are key in managing pandemics. Specifically interesting is the US propaganda machinery used during the war to suppress any information about the influenza pandemic that cost millions of lives. (pure propaganda that will make Goebbels smile and McCarthy impressed). Another point that has puzzled me is the lack of (or deeper) mention in history books and literature to this event that cost millions of lives. Just one paragraph in history books and no literature at all as I recollect from school. Anyway, plenty similarities with our current pandemic and from some figures the statement "It is just Influenza." Defenetly a lesson not learnt.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-01-2021

Why do I not know this story already?!

100 million dead, overwhelmingly the young and the fit. Authorities not knowing what to do. Children starving to death as their parents died and neighbours too scared of the disease to come and help.

Why do we not know the story of the 1918/19 Flu pandemic as well as we know that of WWI, WWII and the Holocaust?

If anything we should know it better as the risk of it happening again was so stark. As COVID-19 shows. Thankfully the latter is a mild strain in comparison.

This book is perhaps overly long and focuses overwhelmingly on the USA (where the virus, despite it’s name as ‘The Spanish Flu’ probably started). The diversions into the emergence of American Medicine are however interesting. At the turn of the 20th century, lack of public funds and a believe in deregulation which gave rise to quackery and a lack of public trust, meant US medicine and medical research lagged far behind Europe.

The key story however is one that should be taught to every schoolchild and politician.

Because the book was written and recorded before Covid-19, the afterword is particularly depressing. The author concludes that only far greater spending and preparedness on a further flu outbreak will save thousands of lives and only politicians willing to invest in advance, and tell the truth when an outbreak occurs can prevent a feeling of terror, helplessness and economic collapse.

This should have been put on Netflix 6 months ago. Essential listening.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr Marmaduke Crinkleberry
  • 05-01-2022

Interested filling sandwiched by long ramblings

The core subject matter of this book was fascinating and well-written, but the listener must endure needlessly long and detailed diatribes about various US scientists both before and after the actual story of the pandemic. Even when it finally gets to that the story, whole book remains crassly America-centric, as if only Americans suffered and only American scientists saved the day.

I didn't bother with the last 80 minutes as the book once again descended into trivial detail over what happened to the brave American science after the pandemic.

Narrator also prone to a melodramatic tone.

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  • CJ
  • 07-06-2021

Hardly really about influenza

The 1918 pandemic should have been a thrilling story but instead the author gives you whiplash by jumping around all over the place and going into far much detail about things that aren't relevant.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-05-2021

Too centered on the US

very detailed about the events in the US. The rest of the world is mentorer only very briefly.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-03-2021

Limited to the US

This book primarily covers the US. Global coverage is limited. I was hoping for coverage of the pandemic across the world.

Lots of interesting science very relevant to the Covid pandemic.

Style and performance is somewhat florid.

Very relevant in 2021.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-02-2021

Wonderful book

I loved this book. Reading it while COVID - 19 pandemic in progress is surreal and eye opening. Please read it and make a better world tommorow.

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  • RGB
  • 31-01-2021

Very interesting and informative..

Enjoyed this book very much clear and concise information about a virus that could be happening now and you compare both the 1918 virus as Covid19 uncanny who the seem to have the same journey and response from countries and governments in both centuries!?? 👀

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  • Poulton95
  • 15-01-2021

Detailed and Interesting

I enjoyed the whole audiobook but personally I found the second half of the book more interesting and more about influenza than the first though as my background is biology that may be personal preference as the first part was about the development of research institutions in the US. Narration was very good.

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  • WILLIAM A.
  • 08-10-2020

A must read/listen

Beautifully written, excellently researched and put together to give such an amazing lesson on the history, thoughts, fears and dedication of all those fighting and living through this period, and a shocking reminder of more recent events and the lessons we just didn’t listen to, as a species and of our respective governments!

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