Monday, January 6, 2014

MMGM: The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson



Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a "mudlark," he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He's being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he's got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe.

But even for Eel, things aren't so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it's clear that the deadly cholera—the "blue death"—has come to Broad Street.

Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it's up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow's theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out.

Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson's The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic.

Eel, a young orphan who spends all his free time working to protect a valuable secret from the likes of Fisheye Bill Tyler, finds himself distracted when his neighborhood gets hit by cholera.  Despite his own troubles, Eel wants to help his neighbors so he appeals to Dr. John Snow, a man who seems to have the answers. But as the epidemic surges, can Eel help Dr. Snow stop the epidemic and keep his secret safe? Or will he have to make a choice?

Eel makes for a very appealing main character, he has a remarkably positive attitude considering the difficult circumstances he finds himself facing.  The secondary characters are also fun to read about and it was easy to care about them, even the ones who made just a brief appearance.  Eel's friend, Florrie is especially likable.

Plotwise, the story moves along at a nice clip beautifully integrating Eel's personal difficulties with those of the disease-ridden neighborhood. The mystery was intriguing, even though I already knew the answer, it was interesting to read about how the characters got there.  I especially appreciated the author's explanations at the end about her adjustments to the time table and details about the historical characters. I always find myself fascinated by stories about people that make a difference in the world in relatively quiet ways.  Dr. John Snow's discoveries continue to impact the world today and I enjoyed reading about it.

A very readable, enjoyable story with enough action and detail to satisfy most readers. Highly recommended.


  1. Sounds like the kind of book I really enjoy. Thanks for reviewing and sharing!

  2. Great review - this sounds like a great book!


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