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The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald

The Plague and I (original 1948; edition 1948)

by Betty MacDonald

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2971260,814 (4.04)41
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 MacDonalds 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)
Title:The Plague and I
Authors:Betty MacDonald
Info:J.B. Lippincott Co (1948), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 254 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Tuberculosis, Seattle, Washington, Humor, Single Mothers, TB Sanitarium, 1930s I think

Work details

The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald (1948)

  1. 00
    Limbo Tower by William Lindsay Gresham (agmlll)
    agmlll: Also set in TB ward.

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I don't normally read memoirs, but I picked this one up because I loved the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books as a kid, MacDonald lived in Seattle, and her writing is humorous. This did turn out to be an entertaining and funny read, although the humor lags a lot in the middle chapters. The book focuses on the eight months that MacDonald spent in a sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis.

I found MacDonald to be surprisingly modern - I assumed from her attitudes that the book was set in the 1960s, until I looked up the dates and realized it was set in the 1930s.

Although the book covers all the grim details of recovering from tuberculosis, it's ultimately about friendships: she made close friends at the sanatorium, and it was the friendships that made the recovery time tolerable. ( )
  Gwendydd | Jan 19, 2020 |
Betty MacDonald’s humorous accounts of life continue! This time, she takes us through the year she spent in a tuberculosis sanitorium in Washington in 1938. She pokes fun at everyone, including herself.

This was such a fun book! I know, I’m saying that about a woman’s story of a year away from her life (kids, family, work, fun, friends, etc.), and I may have to spend a little time in purgatory for having laughed so much at such a serious subject. Betty MacDonald does a great job of telling how truthfully horrible being sick is, but also laughing at the situation herself.

I really enjoyed her previous book, The Egg and I, andI found this book even more enjoyable. Tuberculosis isn’t fun for anyone, but in the late 1930s, treatment was something that put your life on hold. Betty was lucky to have spent only a year in the sanitorium. She was also lucky to have close family nearby to take care of her young girls while she was away. Also, she found a sanitorium that offered her free treatment, based on her need. Of course, since she was there are charity, the staff often reminded her that if she didn’t adhere to the strict rules (many of which made little to no sense), she would be asked to leave, still sick.

While there is humor throughout this book, I was also fascinated by life in a sanitorium in the 1930s. It seems the staff were perpetually afraid of the patients commingling and hitting up quickie romances; I think Betty had never received so much warnings against lust in her life! Then there were other rules, like how often a patient was allowed to pee in a day, women patients not being allowed the papers (because it would excite them too much and tax their brains!), and how tatting was allowed but not composing a book.

Patients weren’t allowed to bathe often – once a week for a bath and once a month for hair washing! If family and friends brought special food on their limited visits, all food had to be eaten before the end of the day and whatever wasn’t had to be tossed! Can you imagine receiving a favorite batch of cookies and having to give up any uneaten ones to the trash?

I also had a morbid fascination with the medical practices of the time as well. Betty does a great job describing them from the patient’s view point. In The Egg and I, there were some disparaging racial remarks made. For this book, I am happy to say that Betty points out the silliness of such attitudes of other patients (which were directed at Japanese and African-Americans). All around it’s a very entertaining book and a fascinating look into medical care in the late 1930s.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson has done another great job portraying Betty MacDonald with her narration of this book. I really enjoyed her warm voice for all the humor. During the occasional serious or emotional moment, she did a wonderful job of imbuing the characters with emotion. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Jan 20, 2017 |
1st edition 48
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
"I have always hated morning. It is a horrible time of day. It is too early and it brings out the worst in everybody."

This kind of humor makes what could have been a long, dreary book about illness fly by and easily finished in one day. Possibly it would drag for some, but I found the description of the treatment of tuberculosis and the running of a sanatorium in the 1930s fascinating. ( )
  MrsLee | May 12, 2015 |
Betty MacDonald has written an account of her nine-month stay in a sanatorium being treated for TB. She has done so with honesty and humour, making this book both informative and a pleasure to read. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 16, 2014 |
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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.
First words
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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