Robert Chesshyre

Acts of God

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

By

Atlantic Books 558pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Civilisation has a very thin veneer. Acts of terrorism, wars, famines and disasters strip away the carefully accumulated rules that hold societies, even sophisticated ones, together. Sheri Fink, a doctor turned investigative journalist, puts one traumatic event at the heart of a prominent catastrophe under the microscope, holding up for our inspection the dystopian underbelly of a great American city and the moral dilemmas that face people in severe crises.

Five Days at Memorial is a gigantic piece of work, supported by ProPublica (a non-profit-making ‘newsroom’) and the New York Times magazine, that exhaustively explores what happened in one New Orleans hospital – the Memorial Medical Center – when Hurricane Katrina struck the US Gulf coast in August 2005, claiming nearly 2,000 lives and rendering the flood defences useless and the rescue procedures a shambles. Four years after 9/11, America was primed for a terrorist attack but not for an act of God.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,