Year of Wonders: a Novel of the Plague (Paperback)
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DescriptionFrom 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.
- Published: 02 April 2002
- Format: Paperback 336 pages
- ISBN 13: 9781841154589 ISBN 10: 184115458X
- Sales rank: 3,488
Reviews for Year of Wonders
Plague all around...
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 Maggie Swithenbank
- Top review
A town closes itself off to prevent spread of the Plague
"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. by Lindsey Griffith