A witty and fascinating account of an international pandemic

2009-12-16 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

The Wisdom of Whores

Elizabeth Pisani

Granta

MOST people who pick up a book turn to the back and read the summary before deciding whether or not it’s worthy of being read. In this instance, this particular title caught my eye and I took the book and ­decided to read it without turning to the back to find out what it was about.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that what I assumed would be a smutty read detailing back-yard prostitution was in actual fact a book on an epidemiologist’s HIV/Aids research. And at a length of ­almost 400 pages, nogal.

That being said, as serious as the subject matter is, Pisani reels you in from page one by using sharp wit to write an absorbing account of how various nations have been impacted by the HIV/Aids pandemic. It’s rare to come across an engaging read based on serious topics such as social research, statistics collection and epidemiology, so Pisani is without a doubt in a league of her own in her ability to be able to make such potentially dreary subject matter fascinating to read.

After reading the book, I found that the choice of title was fitting indeed and it captures the essence of the book. The message here is that in order to be able to understand the scourge, you have to engage with those who are more likely to be infected due to their high-risk behaviour — drug addicts and ­prostitutes.

All in all, a riveting read. Go out and get it.

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