Written by Books

The Premonition by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis’ books are always very readable as he has a knack of navigating you through sometimes very complicated stories. In The Premonition he is tackling the pandemic.

In particular, he’s actually tackling it from the perspective of a handful of individuals who had previously been planning for something like this, or who were more ready than most to take on the pandemic.

And this is squarely an American story. What it isn’t doing is getting into the rights and wrongs of the Trump administration’s response to it, or even looking at how different States responded. We do get to see California’s response because one the key characters here is quite high up in California’s health administration.

But we also hear from a bunch of so-called misfits who originally drafted a US pandemic response based on a request from George W Bush. He’d read a book about the 1918 flu pandemic and wanted to be sure that if something like that happened again, the US would be ready.

The book doesn’t pull back on the people it thinks are flawed. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gets it in the neck very squarely. The picture painted is of an organisation that is more concerned with its scientific rigour, and high pedigree publications, than with actually dealing with what’s happening on the ground. It seems that much of the work that was being done was almost in spite of, rather than because of what the CDC was enabling.

This is very much a story of the pandemic rather than the story. But it zips along and the speed with which this book has been written and published is impressive. It’s well worth your time.