The Civil War is notorious for the sheer number of Americans killed in the conflict. Many stories have been told of the men killed in battle, but it is less common to read about the other side of the deadly coin of wartime death – disease. Blood and Germs doesn’t shy away from the blood or the germs promised in its title. Gail Jarrow gives the reader a look into the reality of 19th century wartime medicine that cuts deep with visceral emotion mixed with medical fact (maybe too deep for the squeamish or faint of heart). This book is well-researched and contains a wealth of first-hand photographs, quotes from doctors, soldiers, and civilians about their first-hand experiences, as well as a lengthy list of additional resources for anyone wishing to delve more deeply into this fascinating topic.
While Jarrow’s writing style is very straightforward in the way it imparts information, the accounts from historical documents and the photographs give the book a personal tone that is sometimes lost in the telling of dry histories. The pages are filled with intriguing facts about the medical profession at the time, but also about society, culture, and the various technologies associated with war. Young readers who are interested in either medicine or history are sure to enjoy the discoveries they find as they explore this book.
Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Calkins Creek
Profanity/Language: 1 mild obscenity. Note: the word “hell” is used in the historical nickname for a place (not tallied).
Violence/Gore: A few reports of buildings destroyed by fire; a few reports of amputation surgeries; many reports of soldiers killed or injured in war, some with graphic injury described; report of and execution by hanging; a few reports of suicide; a few descriptions of disease symptoms, with two photographs of afflicted people or tissue; a few characters die by disease, with bloody or gory symptoms described; a battle with wounds, dismemberments, and death, described in some detail; doctors attend to wounded a few times during and after battles, with gruesome injuries and treatments described; a few descriptions of how gory medical treatments were performed, including amputations. In addition to the text, the book contains several historical pictures that depict destroyed buildings, battles, and the aftermath of battles, including dead bodies and serious injuries in some cases. It also contains a few photographs of amputated limbs or graphic injuries and disease symptoms.
Sex/Nudity: Report of medical exams that were given with patients naked; an illustration depicts a naked man to show the symptoms of a disease (no genitals shown).
Mature Subject Matter:
War; slavery; child soldiers; gambling (brief mention); mental illness (PTSD, depression); suicide (reported); death (friend, relative); racial discrimination; alcoholism (reported).
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Opium, morphine, and drinking alcohol are used medicinally. Alcoholism is mentioned.