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.
Brooks, a former war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, New
York Times, and Washington Post, and bestselling author of the nonfiction
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
Synopses & Reviews
"Wonderfully detailed and keenly researched, it is a moving portrait of a courageous woman caught between a disastrous affair with a charismatic revolutionary and the draconian laws of the land that would put her to death because of it."—Kathleen Kent
"Dangerous Liaisons: A seventeenth-century heroine for our times . . . [A] delightfully seditious heroine...Proof that a historical novel can be educational and entertaining, and nothing like homework."—O, The Oprah Magazine
London, 1649: King Charles has been beheaded for treason, Cromwell is in power, the Levelers are demanding rights for the people, and a new law targeting unwed mothers presumes anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder.
Glovemaker Rachel Lockyer is locked in a secret affair. But while her lover is imprisoned in the Tower, a child is found buried in the woods. Rachel is arrested. So comes an investigation, a trial, and an extraordinary cast of characters all brought to reckon for this one life. Spinning within is a remarkable love story and evidence that miracles come to even the commonest lives.
“The best kind of historical fiction--a combination of love story and murder mystery, with a sprinkling of intriguing historical snippets and wonderful writing.”—Library Journal, starred review
"[A] marvelous story written in searing prose. Don't miss it!"—Sheri Holman
"Heart-poundingly vivid [and] intellectually provocative . . . A romping good read . . . Historical fiction at its best."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"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
"The novel glitters . . . A deep imaginative engagement with how people are changed by catastrophe." —The New Yorker
"Year of Wonders is a vividly imagined and strangely consoling tale of hope in a time of despair." —O, The Oprah Magazine
"Brooks proves a gifted storyteller as she subtly reveals how ignorance, hatred and mistrust can be as deadly as any virus. . . . Year of Wonders is itself a wonder." —People
"A glimpse into the strangeness of history that simultaneously enables us to see a reflection of ourselves." The New York Times Book Review
"Elegant and engaging." Arthur Golden
"Year of Wonders has it all: strong characters, a trememdous sense of time and place, a clearly defined heroine and a dastardly villain." The Denver Post
"Dangerous Liaisons: A 17th century heroine for our times...[A] delightfully seditious heroine...Brown introduces a wonderful cast of supporting characters.... For all its period detail, this debut seems remarkably modern in its depiction of love and politics—proof that a historical novel can be educational and entertaining, and nothing like homework."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"A heart-poundingly vivid, intellectually provocative account. . . A romping good read that is character-driven yet intellectually provocative on issues of law, religion and morality—historical fiction at its best."
—Kirkus, STARRED review
"Debut novelist Brown has woven an absorbing tale...her story reveals a rich knowledge of the era with memorable characters, sharp, period-worthy dialog, and a poignant love story...This is the best kind of historical fiction—a combination of love story and murder mystery, wtih a sprinkling of intriguing historical snippets and wonderful writing."
—Library Journal, STARRED review
"Intelligent, masterful, suspenseful—one of the best books I've read in years. An impressive debut novel from a hugely talented new writer, Accidents of Providence was a rare treat."
—Margaret George, author of many works of historical fiction, including Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
"With this marvelous story written in searing prose, Stacia Brown brings us a deeply human, super-smart, uncommonly well-researched historical novel. Accidents of Providence tackles hypocrisy, both sexual and political, and invites us into the revolutionary taverns and chaotic courtrooms of civil-war-torn London, introducing us to the faithful and adulterous, the idealists and opportunists, of an era not so unlike our own. Don't miss it!"
—Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger, among others
"Stacia Brown's debut novel, Accidents of Providence, richly illuminates an important but little known period of history: that of the English Leveller society. Wonderfully detailed and keenly researched, it is a moving portrait of a courageous woman caught between a disastrous affair with a charismatic revolutionary and the draconian laws of the land that would put her to death because of it."
—Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter
"Accidents of Providence is historical fiction at its best. It is absolutely steeped in atmosphere and so vividly re-creates the interregnum era that I felt as though I'd been transported there. Brown's prose has a beautiful originality. Her characters come alive with authenticity and humanity; they are loveable and infuriating, but the reader always believes in them, and invests hopes and fears with them. The story kept me gripped from the very first page—by turns desperately sad, funny, and heartwarming. It is a breath of fresh air. I loved it!"
—Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy
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."
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.
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In 1666, a young woman comes of age during an extraordinary year of love and death.
Praised by the likes of Margaret George, Kathleen Kent, and Sheri Holman, who calls it a "marvelous story written in searing prose," Accidents of Providence takes us into the streets of 1649 London and the story of an unmarried woman, a glovemaker, whose passionate love affair leads to a trial for murder
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.
Review A Day
"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