March 19, 2013

Fever by Mary Beth Keane



Fever by Mary Beth Keane
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: March 2013
Categories: Historical, Fiction
Source: Netgalley

Description:

On the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen, and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked, and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

The Department of Health sent Mallon to North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910, then released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary—proud of her former status and passionate about cooking—the alternatives were abhorrent. She defied the edict.

My Thoughts:

Fever is the fictionalized account of the life of "Typhoid Mary", and what a fantastic account it is. I knew of Mary Mallon. I'd heard of "Typhoid Mary". As it turns out, all I knew of her story was her awful nickname. I had no understanding of her life or what happened to her.

Mary was arrested, treated like garbage, and made to live in isolation on a quarantine island. She really didn't understand what they were saying about her. She'd never been sick a day in her life. How could she be spreading a disease? 

Oh SWEET JESUS, keep your fingers OUT of the food!

There was little understanding about the spread of disease in the early 1900's compared with what we know today. The things the doctors and health officials were saying sounded like some sort of magic to Mary Mallon. I can understood why she went back to cooking after being forbidden to do so. 

"Typhoid Mary" has been painted by history as an evil woman. This book made me realize that there was much more to her story.

Fever is a sensational book about an intriguing woman. I couldn't stop reading it and I can't recommend it highly enough. 

To learn more about Mary Mallon see this article on Nova, "Typhoid Mary: Villain or Victim?"



22 comments:

  1. Keep Your Fingers Out of the Food...Now I'm the weird person laughing out loud at my desk.

    This sounds like a really fascinating book. I'm off to check the library! :)

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    1. Ha ha! Glad I made you laugh ;) I hope you find this one and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  2. This sounds like my kind of book also. I will put it on my TBR.

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    1. I hope you do get to it Hillary, it's excellent!

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  3. I've read mixed things about this, but this topic is fascinating. Like you, I had heard of Typhoid Mary but knew absolutely nothing of the woman behind the moniker.

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    1. It was the kind of book that made me want to hunt down even more information about the topic. So interesting!

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  4. How do you do it? You have made me want to read another book, again! Cripes! Another book to add to the TBR pile ;)

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    1. Muahahaha! I'm evil, simply evil! Really though, I do hope you get to this one! It's a winner :)

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  5. This sounds really interesting! I will check it out!

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    1. I hope you do Jennine! Thanks for visiting :)

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  6. Ooo.. I am so requesting this one now! I've never heard of Typhoid Mary, but jeez if a lady can't be a little successful once in a while without some dandy coming and ruining it all. Sounds really interesting - thanks for the rec!

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    1. Of course right? There is always some dude coming along to screw everything up! That or a communicable disease, ha!

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  7. This does sound interesting, I hadn't heard of her before this. I wonder why she kept on cooking. And how scary that they quarantined people that way.

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    1. I think she continued because she knew of no other way of life...and because she honestly didn't understand that she could be spreading a disease. It's a great book and I loved learning more about her :)

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  8. What a fascinating story! I never heard of this woman and her situation made me think of today's chefs and hygiene. Oh, I better not go there!

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    1. Ha ha, don't even think about it! I've found myself washing my hands a lot more often since I read this book ;)

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  9. I have heard of her as well, but my knowledge was about as extensive as yours before you read this book. I will have to read it, I had no idea she was treated so terribly!

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    1. Before I read this I thought of her as that icky woman who spread typhoid. I had no idea :(

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  10. I had heard nothing about her other than the name either. Looking forward to reading this one, thanks for the recommendation.

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    1. You're welcome Lindsay. I hope you find the time for this one, it's a great read :)

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  11. I've had this one, but have been kicking the idea of reading it back and forth. Your review really made me want to read it sooner than later.

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    1. You should, you should! I can't say enough good things about this book :)

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