Year of Wonders: a Novel of the PlaguePaperback
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- Publisher: HarperPerennial
- Format: Paperback | 336 pages
- Dimensions: 130mm x 194mm x 26mm | 240g
- Publication date: 2 April 2002
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 184115458X
- ISBN 13: 9781841154589
- Sales rank: 3,800
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'March' and 'People of the Book'. A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village. In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection. So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction. Geraldine Brooks's novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestilence. 'Year of Wonders' is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England's last great plague.
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Geraldine Brooks was born and raised in Australia. After moving to the USA she worked for eleven years on the Wall Street Journal, covering stories from some of the world's most troubled areas, including Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East. Her first novel, 'Year of Wonders' became an international bestseller and her second, 'March' won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She lives with her husband and son in rural Virginia and is currently a fellow at Harvard University.
By Maggie Swithenbank 03 Nov 2011
Our book club loved this book because of how you get so caught up in the characters and the strong heroine who bears incredible loss. It was our first book by this author, and there was lots to talk about--especially her detail to historical facts. Well researched and well written! A great read even if the ending seems a bit odd.
By Lindsey Griffith 06 Sep 2010
"Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her."
Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick
The concept of this book is interesting: that a town would voluntarily chose to close itself off to prevent further spread of the Plague. Somehow the idea seems more interesting in theory then it came across in the book. Some of the dynamics of the relationships Brooks explores are interesting, but overall, the characters are basically all led by the rector, who is actually the one that decides they should quarantine themselves. It's not until the very end that there is any question of where exactly he gets his authority to decide everything for the people. I would think there would be more controversy about this throughout the book as people start to doubt not just their faith in God but in one another. Most of the middle of the book just dwells (over and over) on the themes of why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people and how could a loving God send such a plague. The rector meets these questions by asking in return, who are we to question God's purpose. It seems a deeper exploration of these themes would also ask whether it is not presumptious of the rector to assume he is right in ascribing a heavenly purpose to the plague. This question does get explored, but only just before the end of the book, and not in much depth.
Brooks is a very engaging writer, though, and the story is interesting enough to keep reading. Especially the last hundred pages. Maybe I need to do more thinking about the last pages of this book, because right now I don't quite get Brooks' purpose in veering off so abruptly from the entrenched storyline. And, having read (and disliked) Brooks' non-fiction work Nine Parts of Desire, where she puts the blame on Islam for all the troubles faced by Muslim women, I found it very strange that Brooks would chose to give the main character of the Year of Wonders (Anna) a happy and peaceful life in her escape to the Muslim world. It is unfortunate that Brooks couldn't have shown that peaceful side of Islam in Nine Parts of Desire.
'One of the best novels I've ever clapped eyes on' Jenni Murray, Woman's Hour 'Geraldine Brooks's impressive novel goes well beyond chronicling the devastation of a plague-ridden village. It leaves us with the memory of vivid characters struggling in timeless human ways with the hardships confronting them - and the memory, too, of an elegant and engaging story.' Arthur Golden, author of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' 'Geraldine Brooks's 'Year of Wonders' is a wonder indeed. The novel gives the reader a remarkable glimpse into a 17th century horror, but does so with both compassion and exuberance. Read it for the inventiveness of the language alone - a genuine treat.' Anita Shreve, author of 'The Pilot's Wife' and 'The Last TIme They Met' 'More than a mountain of corpses, more than a sensual evocation of the Sapphic bond between two women, more than a pulse-quickening tale, 'Year of Wonders' is a staggering fictional debut.' Guardian "Year of Wonders' carries absolute conviction as an evocation of place and mood. It has a vivid imaginative truth, and is beautifully written.' Hilary Mantel
This is a haunting book that comes back to loiter in the mind, as do the questions 'What would I have done? Would I have been so brave?'. Based on the true happenings in the Derbyshire village of Eyam, which in 1666 deliberately closed its boundaries to the rest of the country in the hope of containing the plague within the community, the story is told by Anna, whose husband died in a mine accident, and whose two children succumb to the plague. With neighbours dying all around her Anna becomes a helpmate to the Vicar, Mr Mompellion, the originator of the 'wide green prison' idea, and his fragile wife, Elinor. The two women try to fortify the villagers with herbal potions and give help to those suffering. Suspicion, enmity and accusations of witchcraft are rife as the village folk thrash against their fate in their closed and doomed world. The horrors of tending to the dying and sharing the enormous burden of grief make Anna and Elinor's relationship than normal friendship. But there is more loss for Anna, and when the disease passes over, the village has changed and she has to deal with a new and immediate danger which means she can never feel safe in her home country again. Beautifully written with a real sense for the rhythms of 17th-century speech, the novel evokes great empathy for the characters, and an atmostphere of haunting mystery. Despite all the horrors that occur, the courage displayed by many in the village and the sense of life beginning anew at the end of the book make the title a truly appropriate one. (Kirkus UK)