Fever by Mary Beth Keane

Fever by Mary Beth Keane is another of the books I picked up an ARC of when I went to the Simon and Schuster blogger event back in November.  It’s coming out in April.

When I blogged about the event I wrote the following about why I picked this up:

This is historical fiction which isn’t always something I’ve gotten on with.  Someitmes I enjoy it and others (like Phillipa Gregory) just annoy the hell out of me and I put them to one side. But lately I’ve been talking books a lot with a friend who reads a lot of historical fiction and made it sound good so I thought I’d pick this up and give the genre another go.

Picking this up was definitely the right thing to do.  I enjoyed it a lot and have come away wanting to read more about the subject.

Here’s the synopsis:

Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant in turn-of-the-century New York, is headstrong and brave, a woman who has battled fiercely to better her lot in life and keep her wayward lover Alfred on the straight and narrow. She works her way up the ranks to cook for the wealthiest families in Manhattan, but leaves a trail of death and disease in her wake. When she is imprisoned in complete isolation, despite being perfectly healthy herself, she refuses to understand her paradoxical situation. Condemned by press and public alike, she is branded a murderer, but continues to fight for her freedom.

This is a fictional tale based on the life of the real Mary Mallon – who nowadays is probably better known as Typhoid Mary.  Previously fictional accounts of real people have annoyed me because you don’t really know if it’s right but this one didn’t.  Possibly because I knew nothing about Mary Mallon before I started reading it and was only vaguely aware of the story of Typhoid Mary.  Reading this has made me want to learn more about her and the situation she found herself in.  I found this wikipedia article very interesting for that.

I enjoyed this much more than I expected to.  I’d anticipated that it might be quite hard going and had been putting off reading it.  But the recent snow and the fact I was housebound for several days had me delving into the TBR mountain in my flat and looking at all of my more unusual (for me) books for something to read.  It hooked me in and was nothing like hard going.  The subject matter is gripping but not overly gritty as I’d expected it might be.

The author has done a brilliant job of making Mary Mallon – someone who is feared in her guise as Typhoid Mary and who caused many people illness and several deaths (at first unknowingly but later after her first quarantine knowingly) – come accross as personable and as though you can understand why she acted the way she did.  Not that I agree with what she did but in the book at least it made me think what I would do in her situation and I could see why her actions were the only ones she felt able to take.  Part of me does wonder how close to the reality it is.

A word that comes to mind when thinking how to describe this book is haunting – because it makes you think and for me at least has me still thinking a few days after I finished it.  I’m glad I decided to give historical fiction another go and picked up this book.

2 thoughts on “Fever by Mary Beth Keane”

    1. Actually it really wasn’t very gruesome at all. It was more about her than it was about what she did. But I’m not sure I’d take it on a plane either way

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