Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
by Sheri Holman, 320 pp, $24, ISBN 0-87113-753-4, paper, $14, ISBN 0-345-43691-1, New York, NY, Grove/Atlantic (hardcover), Ballantine Books (paper), 2000.
If you want to learn about how cholera can devastate a population, visit a Third World country or read The Dress Lodger. As this novel reminds us, diseases that once devastated 19th century England have hardly disappeared from the planet.
The book explores good vs evil, rich vs poor, and science vs superstition, beautifully using the device of Cholera Morbus as an invader of a society. (Cholera morbus was the term used to distinguish this specific disease from the multiple other causes of diarrhea that abounded at the time, but which were not so dangerous.) Holman writes about the northern English city of Sunderland, where cholera comes to town in the 1830s. The epidemic, both feared and misunderstood, further stresses a society recently destabilized by the various "improvements" wrought by the Industrial Revolution.
Historical FictionThe Dress Lodger. JAMA. 2002;288(17):2185-2186. doi:10.1001/jama.288.17.2185-JBK1106-4-1