Saturday, 17 May 2008

54. J F Federspeil - The Ballad of Typhoid Mary

The Ballad of Typhoid Mary
No. of pages:
First sentence:
In the early morning hours of January 11, 1868, a ship emerged from the whirling snow outside New York Harbour and remained unnoticed by the harbour authorities until after she had violated the three-mile limit.

Many thanks to bodesoda for running a BookRing with this one which appealed to me in a strange, romantic way. I know (or should that be 'knew'?) nothing about Typhoid Mary and think I will now spend many hours trying to work out which parts of this book are fiction and which grounded in fact. Federspeil has woven magic with this book although I found the sub-plot of the narrator's asides interruptions rather than valued additions - and that's why I'm scoring it 9/10 and not 10/10.

This is the story of a woman known as Mary Mallon or, popularly, Typhoid Mary. We first meet her as a young girl aboard an immigrant ship entering New York Harbour. She is smuggled past immigration control by, of all people, a Doctor who becomes her first victim. And so Mary travels around New York City working as a cook and moving on when Typhoid strikes. There are happy times, romance and adventure in her life but the whole is tinged with a haunting sadness. This really was a time when life was 'brutish and short.'

I would read more by this author and recommend this book to others.


Angie said...

I'm gussing that Typhoid Mary was an actual person. Why on earth did the call her Typhoid Mary??

Angie said...

I just googled sad.