Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Plague

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Well with a title like The Plague you know that the book is gonna have a lot to do with pain and pestilence, and mortality.  But would you think it would have to also do with compassion, community, and survival?  Well this book had it all and it was really rather unexpectantly interesting!  Now I have to admit that if I had read this book I would have put it down almost immediately so I am glad I picked it up at the library as an audio book otherwise I would have never experienced this little gem.  The Plague by Albert Camus was published in 1947 and originally it was written in French but was then later translated to English and I feel there was nothing really lost in translation, because the book was quite wonderful and beautifully written.  The novel is believed to be loosely based on a Cholera Outbreak that killed a large percentage of the Algerian city Oran in 1849 following the French colonization (information from Wikipedia).

Now that the little history lesson is over I'll clue you in to what the book is about.  Wait... I bet you can guess...  It's about the bubonic plague (shocking I know).  Anyway, the story takes place in the town of Oran in the 1940s.  First the rats start surfacing.  They are everywhere, in the gutters, in the alleys, in peoples homes, in the restaurants, and they aren't just out and swarming they are out and dying sad little rat deaths.  The people of Oran can't make heads nor tails of this little rat infestation but they are concerned as the Health Department keeps tallying up the little rat deaths and publishing how many they picked up in their morning rat scoop.  The numbers are climbing up to the tens of thousands and then as quickly as they made their appearance they are gone.  Then the first wave of fever, sweats, and buboes start to pop up in the town.  People are dying of some strange horrific death and then the Health Department starts tallying up those deaths too and they are reaching almost as high as the rat deaths.  Doctors are helpless as they watch the town fall to the Bubonic Plague that soon turns into the Mnemonic Plague.  Meanwhile, the town very early on becomes quarantined from the rest of the country so there is the longing for family members that are now separated from their loved ones.  This book isn't just about the plague and the death and destruction of Oran but about the relationships built out of this disaster, and how a community comes together to pick up the pieces of this horrible catastrophe.

I would recommend this book to anyone that really enjoys literature, not just a good read but real honest to goodness literature.  The writing in the book is truly a treat.  Book clubs might want to give this one a try as well.  There would be lots to discuss and I am sure the discussion would get lively.  Or if you just are interested in the Bubonic Plague (like I am) this is a good one to add on your TBR pile for sure.

RATING: 4 stars

1 more reviews on The Plague (I couldn't find any more than this)
Tony's Book World

The Plague by Albert Camus
(Library Audio Book)
ISBN 9780679720218
9 Discs {8 Hours 30 Minutes}

If you liked The Plague then read: The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks


  1. Nice review - you're brave to try this one! I'm not sure I'd count myself as a person "interested" in bubonic plague, but as Camus is usually considered required reading for anyone considering himself a well-rounded lit geek, I'm heartened to learn that you liked this a lot. Cheers to you!

  2. New follower,
    What a great review. I too occasionally read this type of book and I love the literay feel of it. Maybe the Rats I could do without. :)
    I just recently read Hidden Will of the Dragon by Charlie Courtland that had the same kind of feel to it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. If you would like to see the review of Hidden Will of the Dragon stop by at

  3. This is a superb review of a book I've always been a bit afraid to try. Thanks for sharing.
    I like the variety of books that you read, and that fact that you don't gush over everything. A good review should help me decide if a certain book is right for me, and your reviews here have done that. I'm glad I found you. I'm definitely bookmarking this site!