“Fever 1793,” by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Fever 1793,” by Laurie Halse Anderson is a historical fiction novel about a young girl caught in the horrors of the terrible yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in the year 1793.

Book Cover Art for Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse AndersonFourteen-year-old Mathilda Cook feels that her demanding mother is the biggest concern in her life. Mathilda's mother thinks that she is lazy and needs to learn the virtues of hard work while serving at the family business, the Cook Coffeehouse, a cafe and restaurant started by Mathilda's father. Mathilda's father died in a freak accident soon after the coffeehouse opened, and Mathilda and her mother have been working hard ever since to make a living. They also have to support Mathilda's grandfather, an old man who fought in the war for independence and now sits around in the coffeehouse keeping the conversations lively.

Mathilda's best friend is their African American cook Eliza, a strong young woman who earned her freedom and works at the Cook Coffeehouse. Her excellent cooking keeps the coffeehouse running and her kind words and advice help patch together the shaky relations between Mathilda and her mother.

Mathilda's small world is turned on end, though, when reports of a strange sickness begin to circulate. It appears that people are beginning to come down with a strange fever that kills with surprising rapidity. The doctors call it “Yellow Fever” but they have no dependable cure and they have no idea what causes it.

Some people speculate that it comes from the foul smell of the nearby river, and specifically a dockside pile of rotting coffee beans that has released its “deadly miasma.” Other say that the fever was brought to Philadelphia by a group of immigrants.

However, the fever got started, though, it spreads with great speed. At first it seems that the epidemic will be good for Mathilda and her family because it motivates most Philadelphia residents to stay away from the downtown waterfront district and instead frequent the Cook Coffeehouse, which is on higher ground. Eventually, though, the coffeehouse income falls off as people begin to flee Philadelphia for safer territories.

Then comes the day when Mathilda discovers her own mother sick with the yellow fever. Her mother commands Mathilda to leave so that she will not get the fever herself, and soon Mathilda finds herself on her way to the country with her grandfather. However, the surrounding towns are afraid to let people enter because they don't want anyone to bring the plague with them, so Mathilda ends up alone in the countryside trying to take care of her old grandfather.

When Mathilda herself comes down with the yellow fever someone finds her and her grandfather and takes them to Bush Hill, a special hospital facility where French doctors are taking care of yellow fever patients. Though many people still die despite the care of the doctors, Mathilda survives.

Finally released from the hospital Mathilda must return to Philadelphia to try to find her mother again. Since she has already had the yellow fever she is now immune and she becomes a nurse. Although Mathilda is able to help other patients sick with the yellow fever she still can not find her mother. Along the way, though, Mathilda learns to appreciate work and she becomes a better, stronger person because of the experience.

I appreciated “Yellow Fever 1793” for its pleasant tone and fascinating historical facts. Laurie Halse Anderson did an excellent job in creating the main character Mathilda. It is interesting to watch Mathilda develop as the storyline progresses. For readers who like historical fiction I must note that the historical details in “Yellow Fever 1793” are all set out in a brilliant appendix that summarizes many aspects of the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic.

I highly recommend that young readers learn about the yellow fever by reading “Yellow Fever 1793.”

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Inkweaver Review 2009-04-07T10:01:00-05:00

36 replies so far. What are your thoughts?

Kelly said...

I agree about this one. It was so interesting to learn about this time in history.

NathanKP said...

I have read a number of books on the subject and this is one of the best I've found so far. I'm glad that you shared my opinion.

Nathan

Anonymous said...

I love this book, it was really interesting to see how the epidimic really was like from a view of a 14 year old child.

Kathleen said...

I am really interested in this book, it gives you an accurate feeling of a person living during that time.

NathanKP said...

Thanks for commenting. It too liked "Fever 1793" for its realism. Laurie Halse Anderson did a great job with her historical fiction book.

Anonymous said...

This book was awsome. The heart ache matilda went through from the yellow fever epidemic; really shows how it was.Read this book and you will be going on a rollercoaster of emotions.

Anonymous said...

If you are teaching on this subject, this book is ideal to have your students read! it makes learning so much easy and fun!

Anonymous said...

This book took me on a journey through time. It was unbalevable to think something like that actually took place.

Anonymous said...

this book was awful
characters sucked

Anonymous said...

I loved this book although I wasn't a big fan of the ending, I still lay on my bed and think for hours and hours if Matilda and Nathaniel ever got married and lived together in happiness

-Giscela

Anonymous said...

This was the only book that EVER made me shed in tears, I was crying for at least 5 minutes straight.


-Giscela

Vanessa said...

im an advanced reader and i read this book in 2od grade and Loved it. i cried soooo much in the 3rd or 2od chapter when polly died. i love this book it was very pleasing to me

Anonymous said...

This book was very intersting. It is an adventure of the horrors of the epidemic yellow fever in 1793. The plot was amazing and I thought the characters were a very good pick for this book. The two months of this fever in Philadelphia were two months that were very scary. Mattie was very brave and was very admirable for her bravery and determination to get through this fever. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I am a young student who LOVES reading all books! This one, FEVER 1793 is amazing!I never thought the genre of history ever occured to me until I found out about this book!!

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading it in my English class it was great. Matilda turns into a woman and actually wants extra chores.

Anonymous said...

OMG! This book is awesome! The author was so descriptive that some parts made me laugh while others made me cry!

Anonymous said...

i think this book is great i read the part were her granfather died and i cried

Anonymous said...

:(:::::::::::::::

Anonymous said...

is this a really good book, for a report, im only 13 but im not a reader..i hate reading...is it long? thnx

Anonymous said...

omg this book was one of the best books ive ever read it was so heartfelt and sad but at the same time deep and interesting. i would highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good story

Anonymous said...

dis book is da fuc*king bom!!!! like shyt

Anonymous said...

i love this book! its awesome as cool...

Anonymous said...

BEST...BOOK......EVER!! FEVER 1973 (:

Anonymous said...

I hated it. It sucked and i suggest that any one that wants to live happily NEVER READ FEVER 1793

Anonymous said...

I loved this book because in the way it was written, putting the book down is not an option. I am doing a research paper on Laurie Halse Anderson and am enjoying it, but if I had known how hard it would be writing a 700 word paper on a non-well-known author, I would not have chosen her. I still enjoy it, though, because her life is very interesting and even though I have only read this book by her, I am compeled to read more. The plot was sad, but reading this book was not a waste of my time.

Anonymous said...

this book was amazing and the person who said is was bad is stupid

Anonymous said...

how dare you say that

Anonymous said...

ugh
how could you like this book!
terrible plot characters and setting
not at all believable

Anonymous said...

this book was amazing
the characters were sooo good as was the plot, this was one of the best school books that i have ever read
i wish there was a sequel.
mattie was not a failure

-- Anonymous(ws)

Anonymous said...

thank you for telling me the whole story for my ela class

Anonymous said...

I'm happy cuz I have a book report on this
it helps me to understand this book

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

suck me dick

Anonymous said...

i found this book to be really informing but, i was not bored with the story.

David Mortaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Stunning story there. What occurred after?

Good luck!

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