Archive for the ‘pandemic’ Tag

Maddening Crowds   Leave a comment

In my effort not to binge read Louise Penny mysteries, I discovered I’m still not up to date on her oeuvre. The Madness of Crowds gets me closer. Written in the midst of the pandemic,  this novel incorporates an element of timeliness unlike most of Penny’s previous works.

Beginning with the loosening of mask mandates and the availability of vaccinations, the residents of Three Pines are finally comfortable venturing out to enjoy the companionship of family and friends.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is tasked with overseeing security at a nearby university for a controversial speaker. Professor Abigail Robinson believes the pandemic demonstrated the need to euthanize the physically weak and mentally feeble but otherwise healthy human beings. Her thesis slowly gains attention from supporters and detractors.

The usual cast of characters is featured, including Gamache’s family, his closet colleagues Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste, along with the quirky, but endearing residents, of the serene, isolated village of Three Pines. Added to the mix are Robinson, her assistant, the university’s chancellor and a Sudanese refugee being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.

No Gamache tale would be complete without plenty of intrigue. In this case several issues arise, in addition to that of euthanizing, there’s murder, defending free speech,  family secrets, tortuous mental health treatments and how far one has – or might have –  to go to protect a loved one.

The murder investigation is at the forefront, but everything else is always near the surface.

The Madness of Crowds

Four Bookmarks

Minotaur Books,  2021

436 pages, including acknowledgements

When Timing is Everything — Even Reading   1 comment

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

I choose books based on reviews I’ve read, recommendations from friends or sometimes the title alone is enough to intrigue me. The latter and a review led me to Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars.

Unfortunately, there was no pull for me; I discovered this within the first 20 pages. The problem is that the background is the 1918 flu epidemic and the references to quarantines are simply too immediate — even more than a century later.

Donoghue’s novel is set in Dublin and its main character is Julia Power, a nurse in an obstetrics unit in a hospital decimated by the flu. By the way, World War II is still raging.

The Pull of the Stars

No rating

Little, Brown and Co., 2020

291 pages

Survival Modes   4 comments

20170404

I’m usually not drawn to apocalyptic novels, but Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is so much more than a foreboding tale about a small group of people who  survive a pandemic. It’s also about getting through the trials of what we might consider the normal elements of life: existence before the disaster.  She blends the backstory of the half dozen characters she masterfully introduces with their lives following the devastation; and it works!

The story follows the characters whose lives shared parallel paths with Arthur Leander, a famous actor, and which orbit around the fall of society. Unrelated to the flu that kills most of the world’s population, Arthur dies of a heart attack.  Nonetheless, he remains a substantial character as viewed by those who knew him: one of his ex-wives, his best friend, a young girl who watches him die and the man who tries to save him. Another ex-wife and Arthur’s son have important, albeit tangential, roles.  Each character is connected to Arthur, although they don’t all intersect with one another.

St. John Mandel creates a bleak, but not black and white picture, which is often the case in similarly-themed novels. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes to mind as a portrayal of a dismal post-catastrophe world. Sure, there is plenty of anarchy and death in Station Eleven, but somehow they don’t overshadow the power of friendship, love and art.

The author deftly illustrates that fear and loss exist before and after the collapse of civilization – as does hope.

http://www.emilymandel.com/bio.html

Station Eleven
Five Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
352 pages