For the story of the Great Flu and the country in which it originated (Haskell County, Kansas), Barry does a superb job. He tells the story of Hultin, Duncan, and Taubenberger recovering the virus from the frozen bodies of victims in Alaska and Norway. And then of how President Woodrow Wilson, who was in the middle of peace negotiations in France, was stricken. Wilson recovered but was a changed man. Herbert Hoover believed Wilson’s mind had lost “resiliency” and others commented on his paranoid ideation. For those who like to rewrite history, it is tempting to speculate on what might have happened if Wilson had not contracted the flu and if the assassin who put a bullet in the shoulder of French premier Georges Clemenceau had a better aim.
Author: John M. Barry ©2004, 2005