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The Plague and I (1948)

by Betty MacDonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Betty Bard MacDonald autobiographical series (book 2)

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4031964,192 (4.03)58
"Getting tuberculosis in the middle of your life is like starting downtown to do a lot of urgent errands and being hit by a bus. When you regain consciousness you remember nothing about the urgent errands. You can't even remember where you were going." Thus begins Betty MacDonald's memoir of her year in a sanatorium just outside Seattle battling the "White Plague." MacDonald uses her offbeat humor to make the most of her time in the TB sanatorium-making all of us laugh in the process.… (more)
  1. 00
    Limbo Tower by William Lindsay Gresham (agmlll)
    agmlll: Also set in TB ward.
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» See also 58 mentions

English (18)  Danish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
A great read. I always did love books about institutional living - boarding schools, orphanages, mental hospitals, etc. If anyone has researched what happened to Betty's friend Kimi, let me know what you found out.

Never mind, she's in Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monica_Sone


( )
1 vote Martha_Thayer | Jan 13, 2022 |
Interesting memoir set in a time when there weren't antibiotics available to treat tuberculosis. Betty MacDonald has a fun turn of phrase, making even the most dreary of patients at the sanitorium into someone I enjoyed hearing about. The differences in treatment were also interesting, in a way where I am very glad that I don't have to get my ribs removed in order to collapse my lung in order to treat a pulmonary disease. Heather Henderson is also a delight as the narrator, full of personality just like Betty MacDonald. ( )
  coprime | Aug 1, 2021 |
'The Plague and I' was a wonderful surprise, full of good humour but also magnificent detail and descriptions by a writer poorly remembered in the twenty-first century. Betty MacDonald was diagnosed as having tuberculosis, having been ill for quite some time, her symptoms always being disregarded by impatient, uncaring doctors. The treatment at the time, or at least the better part of it, was long-term bed rest in a special sanatorium; hardly the best basis for a book, and yet MacDonald does such a marvelous job of describing her adventure and the characters she meets (the sardonic Kimi is the most memorable by far) that the tale flies by, and before you know it, the author is on the road to recovery. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jun 25, 2021 |
Author of the famed book The Egg and I wrote this memoir about her time in a sanatorium when she caught tuberculosis in her thirties. She had to quit her job and leave her young children at home with her mother, not knowing if she would even return. The place sounded very dismal. No talking, laughing, even reading in bed! Sponge baths only once a week, hair getting shampooed even less frequently. Her greatest complaint was simply being cold all the time, even when hot water bottles were brought to her bed, they were lukewarm at best. The main treatment at the time (1930’s) was very strict bed rest- and there were a number of unpleasant-sounding surgical procedures that were done to intentionally collapse the lung in order to make it rest completely. I can’t imagine having to lie absolutely still in a bed for weeks or months on end. She mentioned quite a few patients who had been in the sanatorium for years. Rumors abounded among the patients of who had died, what type of surgeries or treatment they’d had, etc. Sounded like nothing was ever explained to the patients- where they were going when a nurse arrived with a wheelchair, what the results of tests were, what the doctor thought after evaluating their condition, etc. Always kept in the dark- and then lectured to constantly about the rules.

Well, eventually she healed enough to be allowed to sit up in bed for a short period of time per day, which was gradually extended until she earned the privilege to walk to the bathroom, or down the hall, or have a bed outside on the porch, etc. She gives lively character sketches about her fellow patients, roommates, the nurses and staff- sometimes not very complimentary, of course. Oddly enough, what I found most interesting about this book was simply reading about treatment for a disease that doesn’t seem to be a huge problem anymore- how archaic and long-suffering it sounded. How dismal the outcome for so many. While I could tell the author was attempting to put a humorous spin on everything, I only chuckled a few times, I didn’t really find it funny even when I knew she was exaggerating. It just felt- kind of dull. Might be my mood. Of course she was relieved to finally be declared healthy enough to go home- but then had to face a difficult adjustment period, still finding more to relate to with her prior roommates from the sanatorium- she stayed in touch with a few- disgruntled that her family hadn’t cleaned out the room she was going to stay in, and alternately annoyed or embarrassed that many people shunned her presence in public, fearful she was still contagious. It’s interesting for a glimpse into the past, but I didn’t find it much more than that. I think I ought to read it again at another time.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | May 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Betty MacDonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Marxová, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Dr. Robert M. Stith, Dr. Clyde R. Jensen
and Dr. Bernard P. Mullen without whose gen-
erous hearts and helping hands I would probably
be just another name on a tombstone.
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Getting tuberculosis in the middle of your life is like starting downtown to do a lot of urgent errands and being hit by a bus.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Getting tuberculosis in the middle of your life is like starting downtown to do a lot of urgent errands and being hit by a bus. When you regain consciousness you remember nothing about the urgent errands. You can't even remember where you were going." Thus begins Betty MacDonald's memoir of her year in a sanatorium just outside Seattle battling the "White Plague." MacDonald uses her offbeat humor to make the most of her time in the TB sanatorium-making all of us laugh in the process.

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