Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

I had a couple of doctor's appointments this week, so I thought it would appropriate to read about the Plague. I love that this novel is based on a real story.

During 1666, when the Plague is ravaging London, most of the English countryside is safe from the torment. However the town of Eyam was unlucky and the Plague starts killing townsfolks. In a shocking case of supreme unselfishness, the town decides to shut themselves off in a voluntary quarantine, to save the surrounding villages. We see the events through the eyes of Anna Firth, a young widow and mother of two boys, who is the servant to the new minister and his wife, Elinor. Anna and Elinor become close friends in their effort to battle the scourge, with Anna learning how to read, learning about different herbs and plants, and being impressed with her new friend's selflessness and Christian giving.

As the sickness takes its toll, leaving no house unharmed in its wake, people are tested. Some come through stronger, some are undone by their losses, some blame God, some blame their fellow townsfolk. In the end, everyone's true colors are shown, and Anna has to make several difficult decisions.

The story flowed like water. Although the author uses a lot of period-accurate obscure words, the vast majority are easily figured from context, and the language adds to the flavor and atmosphere of the novel. Anna is a wonderful heroine, she's simple and strong without high aspirations, but she works hard, is a quick study, and she's a survivor. A couple of times she seemed a little anachronistic (did they really know that the Plague could be spread through infected bedding and clothing?) but not in any way that hurt the story for me. It was a great story to get lost in.

I got this book at the Friends of the Library book sale.


Kathy said...

I think Geraldine Brooks's writing is absolutely beautiful. I'm looking forward to reading her newest book (Caleb's Crossing)--just found out today that my local library is getting a copy! Yeah!!

Unknown said...

Your review immediately made me think of A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan although this book is very, very dark. It takes place post Civil War, involves an outbreak of diphtheria and was inspired by Death Trip in Wisconsin, another grim book. O'Nan is a gifted writer in my opinion but this book is definitely not for everyone. I was haunted by it for quite some time. Still am!

Carolyn Abiad said...

Haven't had the chance to read this one yet. I have Caleb's Crossing on the nightstand TBR first. Picked up one of the signed copies at Park Road Books at the last WNBA meeting. :)

Danielle Zappavigna said...

GB is one of my favourite writers and I loved this, but of all her books I think People of the Book is the best. I can't wait to read Caleb's Crossing.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to read you found this to be a good book. I haven't read it yet but I haven't read or heard a negative comment about it. I have a copy here and look forward to reading it (which sounds a little weird!). I love that you chose to read it when you had doctor appts....I appreciate the medical care and knowledge available today considering what it was like back then.
I hope your week went well.

Anonymous said...

"I had a couple of doctor's appointments this week, so I thought it would appropriate to read about the Plague." - Haha!

I have had this book for years now - from a library sale as well - but still haven't read it! Thank you for reminding me of the gem I'm missing.