Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fever 1793

Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2000. Fever 1793. Listening Library. Performed by Emily Bergl.

I finally finished listening to this great book. I accidentally downloaded only 4 of 5 parts and didn't realize it until my MP3 downloaded book had been "returned" to the library. I had to wait 2 weeks until the download was available for checkout again. That is one of the drawbacks of downloaded library books. Depending on your library's provider (ours is a regional consortium), books may not be available for multi-user use.

In any case, I was sufficiently engrossed in the riveting story of Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, that I could not wait to get the last of the 5 parts. Each part is about an hour long and they can be downloaded separately if your player has limited memory.

Fever 1793 is a fictional account of the deadly epidemic that hit the new nation's capital in 1793. The story follows young Matilda Cook, the daughter of a coffee shop proprietress as her friend, her mother and her grandfather fall ill. Maddie herself finally succumbs to illness as well. The chaos, panic and lawlessness of Philadelphia as the epidemic worsens is vividly portrayed through descriptions of mass graves, tolling death bells, death carts, and dreadful instances of bleedings.

Maddie learns self-sufficiency, self-determination, and compassion as she struggles to take care of family and strangers alike. Fever also tells the story of the generous and courageous work of the Free African Society and the Mayor's Committee - the only offical groups that remained in the city and functioned in an organized and effective manner.

The Appendix, read in its entirety after the story, pointed out the historical facts included in Fever, as well as other important historical notes from the time period. George Washington left the city and traveled south, laying the cornerstone of the new capital in DC as the old capital boiled in chaos. Dolly Payne, the future wife of president James Madison, lost her first husband and a son in the epidemic.

I enjoyed the book, but preferred the non-fiction, Newbery Honor Book by Jim Murphy, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.

Fans of historical fiction and strong-willed female protagonists will enjoy this riveting story. Emily Bergl is an engaging reader. A haunting version of the Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts accompanies the story's conclusion.

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