Book review – The Great Mortality by John Kelly

Caidyn's review (1)

The Great Mortality


CW: Jewish pogroms, anti-Semitism, and plague

Ah, the plague. The good old plague that decimated Europe’s population. And, apparently, I thought it was a good choice to read this during the most wonderful time of the year! (Actually, this was the book I’d read first thing in the morning with my coffee. I know. I have weird reading habits.)

I’ve always had a huge interest in this topic, ever since I was a child. And, yes, I know that I was a very weird child. You don’t need to remind me. But, I was reminded of it around this time last year. I took a class about Europe in the high middle ages — aka 1000 through, about, 1250. The Black Death is about a hundred years after that point, however my professor decided to spend a day talking about the things that happened after the period.

That included the huge famine that struck Europe, the Hundred Years’ War, the beginnings of mercenaries, and, of course, the Black Death. She talked about the cult of remembrance and about the active role that death took in art and many other things. I found it fascinating.

Now, a year later, I’ve read this book that gives a general overview of Europe and the plague. Most of the book focuses on Italy, France, England, and Germany. There’s a whole chapter devoted to the treatment of Jews since they were blamed for the plague.

Kelly, though, rambles. A lot. He also enjoys drawing comparisons to random little things, like Aldous Huxley or anything else that he feels will tie into the topic. That didn’t always work. It usually pulled me out of the book with a weird face and a laugh since it was just odd.

He also has a definite focus for the book of it being more western Europe. He doesn’t go into much detail about the east whatsoever, whether that’s eastern Europe or Asian countries. I wish he had spent the pages drawing comparisons teaching me about the plague in other areas of the world during this time.

Still this is a good book. It’s very readable and kept me interested in the topic. It covered a lot of ground I already knew about, but it touched on things I didn’t know and found super interesting. Really, it’s a great book if you want to figure out what subtopic you would like to focus on more.

Talk to me!
Any dark area of history that you’ve always had a weird fascination with?

One thought on “Book review – The Great Mortality by John Kelly

  1. Pingback: December Wrap-up – BW Reviews

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