Cover Image: There Came a Contagion

There Came a Contagion

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Detailed but very entertaining. Submerged myself into it for a few days. Which is very rare. I do recommend the book. Enjoy!
Was this review helpful?
This book does a nice job of conveying some of the difficulties and realitites of the era in which it is set. If you want a sense of how many people viewed their world during this highly contentious time in Europe, this book works well. It is highly readable and filled with interesting characters who seem quite plausible.

That being said, I found the book moved rather slowly - at least for the first half. It took that long before we even begin to get to the real story being told. But once we finally get to the actual story, it was rather predictable.
Was this review helpful?
This is a slow burn historical fiction which in some ways I found frustrating but when I thought about it I kind of liked it as well. It's because you get to know the character's better. They are far from one dimensional. 

There's stuff in this book that some may find offensive. Also, people of power abusing that power.

Also, contagion isn't what I expected. It isn't a physical disease. You could call it a mind disease as we are in the witch trials of Germany in the 16th century.

So, just be mindful when you begin because at times it is heart breaking.

The author is an awesome story teller and his writing reflects that.

Enjoy!
Was this review helpful?
Insight into Contagions of the Mind Set within a Historical Context
In this book we are swept away into 1600 Trier Germany where characters we get to know intimately as they grow and change, ultimately face the choice of how to personally deal within the “contagion” that sweeps through their village and their lives.

We are with Elsebett from the moment of her birth, through her growth as a daughter, sister, and a valued midwife.  But she is not the only character we get to know intimately.  Ingold fully introduces us to and gets us inside the heads of the many rich characters who fill the book which, when the time comes, allows us to fully understand how each responds to the “contagion”, dealing with the moral decisions they face.  

As for the contagion, it is not a physical one, but one “born in the recesses of the human mind.”  As the author says, it is created out of a shared mind of emotions, rumors, and even fashion.  It starts as excitement then changes to rage and fear. 

This story provides understanding of the ways that people can respond.  So as I think of contagions of the mind such as the following of the Nazis and the many dictatorships in South America, as well as those of both the body and mind as is currently being experienced in the world today,  I have found this to be enlightening.

Not only is the plot fascinating, Ingold’s attention to detail is particularly pleasurable. I include this example to provide some idea of what I mean.

“The magic of dough had fascinated Marsel since childhood…She delighted in the heft of it. She was fascinated by its texture, by the strange warmth it possessed, by its flex and resistance… it possessed an intent, a desire to fulfill itself. Dough wanted to become bread, but demanded respect...  It required kneading. It needed time to rise. And there was a finality about bread.  A loaf cooling on the table could not become undone, could not again become dough.  Like bread, a decision was the end product of a long process.  Time had to pass.”

Altogether, this is a well-written intriguing story that builds within a historical context to a culmination that provides insight into how a contagion happens and how people react to it.
Was this review helpful?
I have always been equally intrigued and horrified by witch trials, so this book definitely piqued my interest.

At first, I wasn't sure what I thought about the story. The beginning was slow-moving, and the characters seemed superficial, but I was hoping things would improve, so I kept reading. Fortunately, this is one of those times where I got more involved in the story as I read on. 

Further in, the characters definitely develop more depth, and move from mainly one-dimensional to well-rounded individuals. I wanted to learn more about them, and there was a lot of change in them throughout the story. The characters were endearing, and I genuinely enjoyed getting to know them. The juxtaposition between the church’s rigid teachings and enforced acceptance of all of its rules and the few people within these small, rather isolated communities who dare to ask questions was highlighted clearly. I was scared for the few characters who don’t conform to the generally accepted schools of thought, since I already knew that they weren’t going to have an easy path in this story.

I did like the way that the characters didn’t just passively sit around and accept their fates, or do exactly what was expected of them. They were independent thinkers, and more importantly, they had their eyes open to bigger issues at work in the witch trials. It wasn’t just a fear of witches and the devil to explain things that they couldn’t find any explanation for, but also a way to manage fear amongst people in the villages when they were struggling to survive amid poor harvests and bad weather conditions, a way to address perceived wrongs between people they may have issues with, a way to increase the financial holdings of the church, and as always, a way for the church to exert control over the people in the diocese, even as the Protestants were gaining traction. 

The plot wasn’t overly suspenseful, but I loved seeing how things unfolded. While I do think it would have been much more interesting if the fate of three main characters weren’t included in the summary. I would have preferred to read it for myself and leave a little suspense as to what was going to happen, but it was still a good book.
Was this review helpful?
Ok I admit it I was drawn to the book initially because of the title assuming it was a book about a historical medical plague .once I started however I realised that the title referred to the spreading horrors of witchcraft trails at the time of Shakespeare .
I found the characters rich and well rounded and was immediately drawn into their world watching with horror the inevitable downfall of their family life as the threat of witchcraft trials gets nearer .To the reader the final outcome seems predestined and you want to shout run get away ! When I  first finished the book I felt cheated by the apparent abrupt ending the whole book leads up to this point and then it ends .On reflection I realise it is a well thought out plan .As a reader the horrors facing our lead characters is so vivid the author can simply leave it to us to finish the story 
In summary this is a great literary historical novel showing how there are worse things than natural medical disasters and pandemics .Human nature is cruel and arbitrary one thing that witch trials showed us so clearly
Was this review helpful?
The story takes place in the 16th century in a village near Trier, Germany. We follow the journey of the Helgen family. It really begins with the birth of a child, Elsebett Helgen, and the death of her mother, Arved, shortly after she gave birth. This little girl becomes the central theme of the story, but her story also serves to describe the darker one of the Trier witch trials.

I found this book extremely interesting. Being able to follow a whole family over decades gives a good understanding of the impact of what it is now known as the Grindelwald Fluctuation on people's minds. We get to know the members of this family. We experience with them the emotions they feel. Love, joy, hope, anxiety, pain… Nothing is spared. We see the cracks that appear in them and the other inhabitants of the village when times get tougher.

Another very important element of the book is the impact of religion. When a scapegoat is needed to explain the bad harvests, it is found in the form of the Devil. It therefore becomes necessary to chase the Devil away by all possible means. This starts with the ostracization of the Jews and Lutherans and, when this is not enough, the witch-hunt begins.

Although this story takes place in the 16th century, it is easy to find similarities with what is happening today. We may know more about certain subjects such as science and climate, but human beings have not changed in one aspect: they still need a scapegoat to explain the things that frighten them.

I really enjoyed this book, it is very well written, the descriptions offered by Doug Ingold really allow us to immerse ourselves in this small German village. However, if I had to make one criticism, I found the story a little too "slow paced" for my taste.
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to read this book mostly because i know that the author, Doug Ingold, is an exceptional writer but I found this book much more captivating than I anticipated. It is like a historical trip back in time with endearing characters that keep you engaged in the hardships of living in a time when life only revolved around hard work and family. It is a story of love and  loyalty and the difficulties of living in an uncertain time. The story is about the widow Marsel Helgen and her family, 3 sons and their wives and children. The book gives you a tidbits of history and the difficulties as well as triumphs of living in Europe in the 1600's while still keeping you absorbed in the personal lives of the Helgen family. When times get hard and Mother Nature rears her ugly head, people felt they needed someone to blame and the bigotry and self preservation that has always been present in human nature becomes their scapegoat for the difficulties that have befallen them. Upon reflection i realized that while technology has made our lives much easier, that same principle is still present today. We no longer burn witches at the stake but we are still looking for someone to blame for our  shortcomings. While this is a work of fiction I would recommend this book to anyone that loves to learn a little about history but enjoys a good story with intriguing characters that keep you spellbound in the trials and tribulations of their life.
Was this review helpful?
Doug Ingold writes historical fiction in the shadows of real history evoking ghosts from many centuries ago with aplomb.
Set against a backdrop of the witch trials that plagued Europe and the UK, from North Berwick to Copenhagen to the Holy Roman Empire at the end of the sixteenth century, this is a powerful, at times dark, character driven story.
The plot is compelling and written with integrity and empathy, full of colourful historical realism as memorable as Witchfinder General.
Was this review helpful?
This book offers a fascinating blend of modern concepts in a historical context.  I don’t know much about the era so appreciated what was clearly thorough research to keep the reader aware and engaged.  The writing style is quite sophisticated with almost lyrical sentence structure in some places.  I found the characters difficult to engage with but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
Was this review helpful?
This book is unlike any other historical fiction that I've read before. I loved it, but I can imagine that it's not for everyone. It's a 'slow read', which felt both a bit peculiar and just perfect at the same time. You get to know the people and the heartbeat of this family, it pulls at your heartstrings, you feel joy and hope, but at the same time and underlying feeling of dread, because you know how all this will end...
The world in this book is beautifully crafted, the characters far from one-dimensional, and there is a quality about it all that is very special. 

The postscript and sources section is very short and felt lacking. I expected the author to have used a wider range of sources and ones more thorough and of perhaps of academic quality. The ones mentioned don't inspire me to do further reading on the subject, which is a pity.
And the mentioning of Wikipedia and recommending people to drop them a few dollars now and then is lost on me.

4,5 stars

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
There Came A Contagion by Doug Ingold
There Came a Contagion is a work of historical, literary fiction, although inspired by actual events. The setting is the Territory of Trier, Germany, late in the sixteenth century. The reformation is ongoing, but the area has remained Catholic. The land ruled over by an archbishop, who is also a prince and elector of the empire. The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe. 
The novel tells the story of the Helgen family, three brothers Basil, Jacob and Sebastian. The brothers are well thought of in their village as skilled and resourceful farmers. After the death of their father, they, their widowed mother, their wives and children, build a comfortable if difficult life together growing rye and barley. 
But tragedy Hits the family when Basil's wife Arved dies not long after the birth of their daughter Elsebett.
 When Elsebett is eight, she leaves the direct care of her grandmother and begins to live and study with Rachel Mueller, a wise woman, a midwife and herbal healer. But the weather turns erratic, and the harvests start to fail, then Archbishop and the prosecutors look for a scapegoat. And so begins a witchhunt that will rip the land and the family Helgen apart.

A quote from Doug Ingold's Bio https://www.dougingold.com/bio/
" This latest novel was inspired by a vivid memory my wife had of a previous lifetime".

I must say, I pity the lass if she dreamt of these turbulent times.
 
There Came A Contagion is an excellent historical work of fiction. The author has done a remarkable job of painting a vivid picture of the life and times of the period.
The novel is well researched and also well crafted. The author produced an awe-inspiring account of a blight that affected much of Europe at the time, albeit, in this case, a fictional one.
His characters are far from one-dimensional. You can feel the anxiety, stress, pain and heartache as the Helgen family goes through its trials and tribulations.
There Came A Contagion is a passionate portrayal of life under the Reformation. It meanders along at a steady pace, keeping in line with the period. You don't expect it to be a fast-paced thriller when set in the 16th century.
I liked this book a great deal. I have read history books about the Reformation and the witch trials in this country(UK), but it's the first time I've come across it in fiction. 
The writing was wordy and lyrical in places, but you have to remember the subject matter. But it was also quite picturesque in some chapters, which you have to give the author credit for considering the theme.
The postscript and sources added to the end of the book are short but of interest. And the author also encourages anyone who uses Wikipedia to drop them a few dollars now and then. 
There Came A Contagion is an accomplished literary piece of historical fiction. And it the 5-star rating I'm giving it, in my opinion.
Thanks to NetGalley and Wolfenden for the ADC of this book.
Was this review helpful?