The Plague and Iby Betty Bard MacDonald
You know how sometimes friendship blossoms in the first few moments of meeting? "Something clicked," we say. Well, that's what discovering Betty MacDonald was like for me: I happened to read a couple of pages of one of her books and click knew right away that here was a vivacious writer whose friendly, funny, and fiery company I was really going to enjoy. Although MacDonald's first and most popular book, The Egg and I, has remained in print since its original publication, her three other volumes have been unavailable for decades. The Plague and I recounts MacDonald's experiences in a Seattle sanitarium, where the author spent almost a year (1938-39) battling tuberculosis. The White Plague was no laughing matter, but MacDonald nonetheless makes a sprightly tale of her brush with something deadly. Anybody Can Do Anything is a high-spirited, hilarious celebration of how "the warmth and loyalty and laughter of a big family" brightened their weathering of The Great Depression. In Onions in the Stew, MacDonald is in unbuttonedly frolicsome form as she describes how, with husband and daughters, she set to work making a life on a rough-and-tumble island in Puget Sound, a ferry-ride from Seattle.
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After listening to the audiobook ‘The Egg and I’ I leapt at the chance of listening to ‘The Plague and I’. Now bear in mind this is OLD fashioned and thankfully the treatment of TB has improved drastically over the years. This follows the plight of Betty as she spends nearly a year in a sanitarium in the USA in the 1930’s ish. At that time the dreaded disease was a killer and the only possible cure was total rest. How can you possibly have an entire book based around this without it being boring I hear you ask? Well ….. you need to meet Betty!! The sharp wit, charm, eagle-eyed observations and pure sarcasm are sheer magic. She describes in length the whole rigmoral of the routine followed, the rather meagre conditions, these days it would be considered patient abuse to shiver with cold as the charge nurse insists the windows are flung open in mid-winter! You can almost taste the food yuck! The description of each of her room mates is either hilarious or hideous. I can’t imagine she was an easy person to be confined to bed next to. As time goes on and her home life seems a distant memory with limited visits allowed from family, Betty can only dream of escape. First she has to complete each treatment and move to the next section. The whole story depends on whether or not she can survive or go home. And IF she does go home will she ever be able to adapt to normality again after being institutionalised for so long. I found the mental dilemma one of the most fascinating aspects of the story. The audiobook is over 8 hours long but it speeds by, highly enjoyable, great narration that lures the listener in. I highly recommend this if you want a cure for feeling sorry for yourself .. not sure it would be ideal for hypochondriacs though! I am already listening to another book by Betty. I voluntarily ‘read’ and reviewed this, thanks to Jess at AudioBookWorm and of course the publishers, author, narrator etc