Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

An Unmarked Grave

Friday, March 16, 2018

An Unmarked Grave (2012) Charles Todd

Set in Europe in the spring of 1918.

A new enemy has entered the war, one that indiscriminately cuts down both sides.

The Spanish Influenza had already cut down three of our nursing sisters, and two doctors were not expected to live through the night. The rest of us were struggling to keep men alive in the crowded wards and losing the battle hourly. Depressing to watch the bodies being carried out, one more soldier lost to an enemy we couldn’t even see.

It was an insidious killer, this influenza. I’d watched men in the best of health in the afternoon gasping for breath by the next morning, tossing with fever, lying too ill to speak, then fighting to draw a next breath. I’d watched nurses and orderlies work with patients for days on end without showing a single sign of illness, only to collapse unexpectedly and join the ranks of the dying. The young were particularly vulnerable.

An orderly comes to Bess, because he has found an extra dead man with the corpses they have prepared for burial detail. Bess recognizes the man, but before she can tell anyone, she is stricken with the influenza herself, and eventually ends up at home to recover.

I quite like the premise of this book–that finding a body right before being struck down with the flu would not only delay reporting, but would also make her likely to believe that memory was simply a fever dream.

And I appreciate the clear look at how the flu devastated the soldiers–far more than the fighting itself did.

“Today we received more influenza patients than battlefield wounded.”

I find it fascinating how the war and modern transportation influenced the spread of the flu, and also how the flu affected the war.

Another reminder that life was very different during this time.

“How did he die then?”

“From overwork— exhaustion. We weren’t sleeping at all, and we ate only when we remembered and there was time. It took a toll on all of us. And Private Wilson was nearing forty, wasn’t he?”

“He was forty-one his last birthday.”

“That could explain it.”

Very different.

(H)e managed to remove the bullet and find the tiny bit of uniform that had gone into the wound with it, probing carefully without adding to the damage already there. For the shot had clipped a corner of (his) lung, and we were fearful that it had clipped an artery as well. But the bleeding stopped as we began to close the wound, and his color was better.

Next would come the fight against deadly infection, although we had cleaned the wound as thoroughly as we could.

That’s something that can’t be emphasized enough–how antibiotics truly and drastically changed medicine, and how current misuse could return us to such a nightmare.
Rating: 7.5/10

Publisher: William Morrow

Categories: British, Female, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read     Comments (0)    

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