This Time of DyingPaperback
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- Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd
- Format: Paperback | 240 pages
- Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm x 23mm | 286g
- Publication date: 12 April 2007
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1846270464
- ISBN 13: 9781846270468
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Sales rank: 506,536
This work is suitable for readers of "Sebastian Faulks", Helen Dunmore's "Zennor in Darkness" and "The Siege", Rose Tremain's "The Way I Found Her", and Pat Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy. It is October 1918 and London is gathering in its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered young bodies of those sent home from the Front to die has become a grimly familiar duty. But what he is seeing now, as influenza claims its victims with increasing speed and force, is something different; for the first time in his life, Henry feels afraid of death. Unable to share his fears with his waspish, disapproving sisters, Henry turns instead to Mrs Allen Thompson, a recently widowed school teacher, so beginning a friendship which gradually, stumblingly, pulls them in a direction neither has been prepared for.
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REINA JAMES lost two grandparents to the 1918 Spanish flu. This is her first novel.
"'Rich and absorbing... a five-star weepie' The Times"
Love in the time of the Spanish flu epidemic.British author James devotes her debut to an early-20th-century pandemic that is estimated to have killed 230,000 in the U.K.; 675,000 in the U.S.; and possibly between 50 and 100 million worldwide. However, her carefully researched canvas is deliberately small, charting the fortunes of a narrow group in London linked by family ties and social connections. Undertaker Henry Speake begins to fear the scale of the "plague" unfolding after reading a letter written by one of its victims, Dr. Thomas Wey, who tried to alert the authorities to the need to close the ports and rein in troop movements - World War I is drawing to its close - as a means of limiting the contagion. Wey also noted that the illness was felling a disproportionately large number of young people. Speake's job inevitably exposes the rising tide of the crisis, as does the work of widowed teacher Allen Thompson. With the children rapidly falling sick, the school is closed and Allen, now befriended by Speake, shares his anxieties while trying to tend to her deluded sister and other suffering folk. But for Allen, associating with Speake is "consorting with a tradesman," which earns disapproval on all sides. Not much happens other than the spread of disease, death and disorder. There are many scenes of grief, tragedy, poverty and helplessness, as society trembles on the brink of breakdown and doctors, vicars and other ordinary souls grapple with the practicalities of the day, while the government contributes very little.A curiosity - sharp glimpses of human nature scattered over a detailed period panorama. (Kirkus Reviews)