Wednesday 29 March 2023

What I’ve been reading in March

 This month's choice for the book club with The Woman with the Cure by Lynn Cullen.

Nowadays children are vaccinated against Polio as a matter of course and we can easily forget that back in the 40s and 50s it was a deadly disease with no knowledge of how it paralysed the body.  It seemed to mostly affect children and in America once a town reported an infection the residents went into lockdown to try and control the spread.  

The most educated and inspirational doctors were in a race to find a vaccine and this would make them the most prestigious and admired doctors in the world.  Dorothy Horstmann is a woman in a man's world and has to fight to find her place in the race to find a cure.  Whereas her competitors have the end goal of making their place in medical history, Dorothy just wants to stop the disease from killing so many children.

Dorothy suspects that the experts are looking at the wrong aspect of the disease; she suspects it may be transmitted through the body through the blood stream.  When proved correct, her discovery means that along with her male colleague she is suddenly ahead of their competitors in finding a cure.

This was certainly an eye opening book.  I was born in 1958 so thankfully was given my polio vaccine on a sugar cube as a matter of course.  Dorothy certainly had to struggle to take her place as a respected professional in a time when the world of science was not considered to be a place for women.  How fortunate the world is that she persevered and had the tenacity to keep going not for the prestige of being the person who develops the cure, but for being the person who saved the lives of so many children.


I then heard Donna Leon being interviewed on a podcast and liked the sound of her series of books that are set in Venice.  I love Italy.  I loved Venice when I visited years ago and I love a good mystery.  Needless to say I was soon downloading the first book of the series onto my Kindle! Death at La Fenice.

This book introduces us to Commissario Brunetti who is called to investigate the murder of a prestigious conductor at the Opera House 'Teatro La Fenice'. The murder takes place during the interval of the opera and one by one, suspects come to mind.  The much younger wife.  The other musicians.  Someone from his past life in Germany during the war.  Who could it be? The author has lived in Venice and just reading her descriptions of the narrow alleyways and canals, the little coffee houses and general day to day life transports you there.  I wanted to be sitting having a morning coffee and pastry while the day to day routine of Venetians went on around me.  I could envision Brunetti getting on and off the water buses around the city, wandering along the bridges in the early morning fog, climbing the well worn steps of his apartment building hidden behind a wooden door on the cobbled street.

I had a sneaky feeling that I may have an inkling as to the perpetrator of the crime towards the end of the book, but there was an added twist I hadn't anticipated.  I liked the style of writing, the ease of reading and the atmosphere of Venice so much that I downloaded the next book of the series straight away!


Gail Is This Mutton? said...

I love the sound of The book about Dorothy and polio. The anti vaxxers make me mad because think how many millions of people were saved death or disability because of the polio vaccine.

Patio Postcards said...

I have now put The Woman With The Cure on request at the library. Vaccines are so important for so many reasons & for the eradication of deadly diseases.

Go women in STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths)

I've read a few of the Commissario Brunetti books. The food descriptions are a lovely accompaniment to the mysteries.

Barbara Eads said...

Well, that's just great! More books I need to add to my growing list! I have 278 on there now--enough for 5 years! Still, I'm grateful for a lead on a new author! Thanks!

Jennifer said...

That murder mystery sounds like one both my husband and I would enjoy. And so does Italy (I want to visit!!)! said...

I am glad to see you read and found The Woman with the Cure a worthwhile read. I found it kind of slow-going in the first half but the story picked up steam and I really felt for Dorothy and her dedication to develop vaccines. I remember seeing pictures or news stories with people in iron lungs and felt so badly for those poor souls. I was never clear if that was their life forever if, somehow, they would be able to leave/graduate from an iron lung to a more normal life.

The other book you describe sounds interesting. I don't usually read series and rarely even read the same author because I find I am disappointed in sequels and second and third books in a series. They rarely seem as good as the first book.