The book attempts to demonstrate the roots of the separatist movement of 1950-2000 in Quebec to smallpox epidemic in the 1870s which wiped out most of the North American aboriginal populations. It also provides a fascinating picture of Montreal in the 1870s, a time when Montreal was known as the Cholera capital of North America.
Smallpox broke out in Montreal after being introduced by a porter on a train from Chicago. The porter recovered, but the illness was transferred to a nursing aid who took it home. The book documents the series of inadequate preventions and superstitions and religion-inspired calamities to the spread of smallpox across Canada and ultimately the first biological agent used against an enemy.
It is an easy and engaging read, and a thought-provoking hypotheses that explains much of what has become of Quebec and Canada. In the process, Bliss also makes reference to many men whose names are now common place names in Montreal.
There is not a year gone by since I read this book where I have not made reference to it in casual conversation.