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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plagueby Geraldine Brooks
"The novel is filled with moments of compassion and sadness, as when Anna comes to terms with the lingering presence of the dead....Yet with the same steady hand Brooks uses to paint the beauty of the English countryside, she details the gruesome minutiae of the disease. No sooner do her descriptions of a mother's love for her child or a housewife's simple, daily chores lull and mesmerize, than Brooks pans the landscape, bestowing the same respectful observation on a putrid plague boil." Suzy Hansen, Salon (read the entire Salon review)
Synopses & Reviews
When London was stricken by the bubonic plague in the years 1665-1666, the houses of plague victims were sealed and guarded, locking in the well with the ill, allowing no access to food, water or human comfort. Samuel Pepys observed in his journal the terrible treatment meted out to plague victims by the terrified Londoners: "makin us cruel as dogs one to another." It was quite extraordinary then that the small village of Eyam, Derbyshire, encouraged by the young Rector William Mompesson, voluntarily quarantined themselves in their own "wide green prison." Eyam is now famously known as Plague Village.
Geraldine Brooks, a former war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, and bestselling author of the nonfiction Nine Parts of Desire, visited Eyam in the 1990s and the tale of the village's self sacrifice took root in her imagination. Inspired by the story, Brooks has crafted the riveting novel Year of Wonders set in 1666. The narrator is 18-year-old Anna Frith, a widow who works for the local minister's wife and whose boarder is a tailor. A flea-infested bolt of cloth arrives from London for the tailor and from there the scourge is manifested. As the plague begins to wreak havoc the minister persuades his flock to stay in the village and seal themselves off to avoid spreading the infection to the surrounding areas. He arranges for food and supplies to be delivered to the outskirts of the hamlet. The village is plunged into mayhem, and as the number of the dead mount, grief and superstition evoke extreme reactions varying from despair and drunkenness to grave-robbing, witchcraft, and murder. Brooks expertly entwines historical ritual and superstition with a compelling and emotional tale of everyday men and women struggling with extraordinary circumstances. Georgie, Powells.com
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and Calebs Crossing—an unforgettable tale of a brave young woman during the plague in 17th century England
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.
"Year of Wonders is a staggering fictional debut that matches journalistic accumulation of detail to natural narrative flair." The Guardian
"With an intensely observant eye, a rigorous regard for period detail, and assured, elegant prose, Brooks recreates a year in the life of a remote British village decimated by the bubonic plague....Brooks keeps readers glued through starkly dramatic episodes and a haunting story of flawed, despairing human beings. This poignant and powerful account carries the pulsing beat of a sensitive imagination and the challenge of moral complexity." Publishers Weekly
"Though the historical detail is absorbing, it is the story of Anna — her courage, her struggle to understand God's will — that is Brooks's most wondrous touch. A." Entertainment Weekly
"The novel glitters....A deep imaginative engagement with how people are changed by catastrophe." The New Yorker
"[A] vivid drama... Brooks has clearly done her homework... she gives us what we want from historical fiction: a glimpse into the strangeness of history that simultaneously enables us to see a reflection of ourselves." The New York Times Book Review
"Picturesque... evocative... impressively rendered... Brooks's portrait is as faithful as we can hope for." Los Angeles Times
"Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders is a wonder indeed: a marriage of language and story unlike anything I have ever read. 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
"Beautiful... deeply moving." Newsday
"A superb work of historical fiction." The Denver Post
"I honestly cannot recall the last time I read a novel as riveting, haunting, and authentically rendered as Year of Wonders. This book is astonishing, a small wonder itself." Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives and Trans-Sister Radio
In 1666, a young woman comes of age during an extraordinary year of love and death. Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a "plague village" in the rugged hill country of England, "Year of Wonders" is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history, written by the author of "Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women."
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In 1666, a young woman comes of age during an extraordinary year of love and death.
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. A former war correspondent, her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
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