The Great Trouble is a great read

Cover of The Great Trouble
A review of The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

The Great Trouble is the best kind of historical fiction. It tells the story of a real event, the 1854 London cholera outbreak, through the eyes of a fictional thirteen year old boy, Eel. Eel is a likable protagonist with a secret and a story of his own. He is a mudlark, sifting through the muck of the Thames river for things to sell. He supplements his income by doing odd jobs around his neighborhood and beyond. One of those jobs is cleaning the animal cages of the great Dr. John Snow. When people in his neighborhood start dying of the “blue death,” Eel asks his employer to help, hoping for a cure. Dr. Snow is eager to study the outbreak, hoping to prove his theory that cholera is spread through contaminated water, not bad air or “miasma” as had been thought, but informs Eel that there is no cure. Dr. John Snow and Eel start their research, meticulously interviewing the patients and families, searching for the source of contamination, and hoping to stop the outbreak.

Dr. John Snow is real, famous for his pioneering use of ether in surgery and for discovering and proving the true cause of cholera, helping to stop the spread of outbreaks. Many other characters in the book are real people as well, drawn from Dr. Snow’s accounts of the outbreak. The end of the book provides information about several of the real people in the book who were instrumental in stopping the outbreak of cholera. While Eel is fictional, his story is true to what a child in his circumstances could have expected at the time. All together, it is a thoroughly engaging read.


1854, not 1954. (For a second I thought, did I miss something?")

As a graphic designer and fan of medical history, John Snow is one of my heroes. He effectively used data visualization to pinpoint the source of the cholera outbreak.

I'm getting this book so I can share this story with my nine-year-old. Thank you for the review!

Thanks for catching the date typo Erika. We've fixed that now. Hope you enjoy the book.

Thank you for this great review! I hope readers will enjoy it.

Deborah Hopkinson