Latham House is a school for sick teens; those diagnosed with the now incurable tuberculosis. They are given a chance to recuperate and continue their studies but Lane doesn’t want to ease off. He wants his life back, with his achievements and his girlfriend. Sadie has been at Latham for years, never well enough to leave or ill enough to succumb completely to the disease.

Where I once was, there was now an active case of TB. Everything who I was and who I wanted to be had been evicted to make room for the disease.

Extraordinary Means plays on the idea of the Victorian sanatorium, reinventing them for a not too distant future. Victorians believed that rest and fresh air were the best things for consumption and not having the drugs to treat it, this wasn’t too bad an idea. It at least quarantined the ill.

Here children are shipped off to a boarding school for those diagnosed with TB. They are encouraged to lead a stress-free lifestyle and are not pressured in classes. In some ways the dynamics are like so many school settings, but the children have been abruptly taken away from the lives they know and they are cut off from the world. And then there’s the possibility they may never leave.

Lane is a straight-A student determined to keep up his academic achievements whilst he’s at Latham House. Initially floundering, he defaults to hanging out with the religious kids, yet he is drawn to another group, one that seems to know how to live in this restricted world.

And Latham wasn’t just a lack of freedom, but a lack of privacy.

I equally liked Lane and Sadie’s narratives. The misunderstandings weren’t overly drawn out and I wanted them to be friends. I wanted them to get a chance outside the walls of Latham. It touches a little on the prejudice they would face in the outside world should they recover. I would have liked it go to into more detail on this but maybe there will be a sequel…

TB is actually on the increase as people stop vaccinating thinking it’s a disease long dead and forgotten. So the scenario isn’t too far-fetched. The over-prescription of antibiotics has led to many drug resistant strains of bacteria, tuberculosis could so easily be one of them given a new outbreak.

Latham had reinvented us. Made us more offbeat, more interesting, more noticeable than we would have been anywhere else.

I feel a bit nitpicky here but as a bit of background, Robyn gives a few examples of diseases coming back. Spanish flu did not come back as swine flu. The Spanish flu triggered a cytokine storm which made strong immune systems attack themselves, thus being deadly to the population usually spared from seasonal flu. Swine flu was just a regular flu, which does kill lots of already weakened people, but it was not the same thing. We had plenty of cases of swine flu at work and people just had some time off work feeling shit and drinking Lemsip.

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Book Source: Purchased