Monday, August 22, 2011

The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell

The entire title is The Speckled Monster A Historical Tale of Smallpox.  I'll have to admit that I probably never would have read this book if it hadn't been chosen for me by a very discerning member of one of my Book Clubs.  If I hadn't read it, I would have missed a very intriguing story of a immensely ugly disease.

Ms. Carrell does an excellent job of weaving the stories of experimental innoculations in Boston and London in the same year (1721), the people who brought it all about and those who tried to stop it.  Lady Mary Wortley Montagu went to Turkey with her ambassador husband and discovered that the people their were not "pock-marked" as they were in London.  Having gone through the ravages of small pox herself she wished to save her children from the horrors and has them innoculated.  When others hear about its success, royalty becomes involved.

In Boston, Zabdiel Boylston, a self-made 'doctor' strives to find a way to help his patients with this horrific malady.  He hears about the innoculation and is intrigued.  When he discovers that black slaves from Africa had all gone through this innoculation before coming to America he decides to give it a try.  The other Doctors and men in the governement oppose him at every step.  Woven into the Boston story is the appearance of Ben Franklin as a young boy selling newspaper and the birth of one Sam Adams.  Fascinating!

The mastery of an author to take a subject such as smallpox and to write in such a way as to keep you enthralled for 400 pages is extraordinary!

4.5 Stars  (Rated PG for gorey subject)

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