Book Review: Cradleland of Parasites

Cradleland of Parasites

I’m not going to beat around the bush; I absolutely love this collection of plague poetry! The writing is beautiful, the imagery is exquisite (though ghastly and disturbing), and the focus on the Black Death is so cool…though a little unnerving considering when I read this (i.e. middle of a pandemic).

SUMMARY: Bram Stoker Award-winner Sara Tantlinger delivers her CRADLELAND OF PARASITES, a harrowing and darkly gorgeous collection of poetry chronicling the death and devastation of one of history’s greatest horrors: The Black Plague.

There are lots of intriguing overarching topics that span the collection; from the idea that this was either punishment or abandonment by God, to the utter havoc this disease caused in society, to the idea that it killed indiscriminately and leveled social classes. I also love how the author gives us a glimpse into the various perspectives from the time period. We see how the plague affected both prince and pauper alike, and some of my favorite poems are the ones written from the POV of people like the “Village Gravediggers” and the “Brothers of the Dead” (beaked plague doctors). There are also some cool poems that personify the disease as various demons, malicious spirits, and even a horseman of the apocalypse (Pestilence, of course).

It would appear that Tantlinger did her research for this collection. No one could write with such vivid authenticity about buboes, hemorrhaging, and puss otherwise (I hope). It also shows in poems such as “The Siege of Caffa” which is about diseased bodies being launched over city walls during wartime, and “Death Ships,” which is about how the plague came to Sicily by boat. Such poems lend another level of weight and authenticity to what is already a well-thought-out collection. So many of these poems had me wanting to spend hours researching the terrifying historical veracity that spawned them.

I could go on and on about the poems in this collection. Like how there’s one about people, in their petrified ignorance, who tried killing dogs and cats but left the rats alive. Or one about an awful storm that blows into a port city and exacerbates the disease. Or the ones toward the end of the collection that reach into the present and examine other infectious diseases, such as schistosomiasis, cysticercosis, and even covid. I could go on and on, but I’d rather you just go experience them for yourself!! 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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