This book tells the story of the town of Oran, in Algeria in the 1940s, and the struggle of its citizens to combat an outbreak of bubonic plague. Although the clue is very much in the title, and from the first page you may feel as if you know what is coming next, each chapter still manages to build surprise and suspense.
The novel is narrated by an unknown person, who is recounting the effect of the plague upon the town. It brings together straight narrative with information from the notebooks of the mysterious Tarrou, a visitor to Oran who happens to be caught up in the outbreak.
As the people of Oran become prisoners placed under quarantine, each must deal with the separation from those they love, caused by both physical distance and by death. Each must come to terms with what life was like before the plague and what it may be like afterwards.
The largest and most imposing character however, is the Plague itself, which develops its own relationship with those living within its grasp and those that are absent, transforming what may at first seem to be a predicable story into a deeper meditation on life, death, separation and the passage of time.
It is a novel which holds up a mirror up to how we may choose to live in sickness and in health. Not a light read, but one that I would certainly recommend.