Year of Wonder/ Reader Review

This month reader review is the novel Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks. The Famous Australian-American journalist and author whose 2005 novel, March, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. 

Geraldine Brooks is an Australian-American journalist and author whose 2005 novel, March, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. 

The story is about the plague of 1666. The Black Death that swept Continental Europe and England in the fourteenth century was not the only appearance in history. The outbreak in 1666 devastated the mountain village of Eyam, northwest of London. Geraldine Brooks uses this real-life event as the catalyst for Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. This historical novel may remind readers of Albert Camus’ The Plague, but also of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

The plague enters the central England village, by way of a traveling tailor whose cloth holds the deadly disease. Our heroine Anna Firth, a eighteen year old widow with two children and a troubled childhood, opened her door to this boarder.  A budding relations start, but soon the tailor becomes ill. He realizes that he has brought the plague after making beautiful dress for the woman. Before he dies, he instructs Anna to destroy the beautiful dress he made. Anna does, but the woman of the village refused.  Anna is the servant and friend of Elinor Mompellion and her husband Michael, the rector. As the plague spreads in the village, they try to rally their neighbors to deal with the tragedy by praying to God and taking practical precautions such as burning infected clothing and supplies and closing themselves off from the world so they couldn't infect the surround villages.

Unfortunately, their efforts meet with mixed success. Many people tried to escape and met with outsiders that refused to let the leave. Still, others in the village are prone to believing that a devil’s curse is upon them, killed. Some turn to the occult for answers while others simply succumb to the ravages of the disease. The Mompellions and Anna, first seen as pillars of strength, are soon objects of defamation and hatred. Then, as mysteriously as it appears, the plague runs its course, but not before it decimates the population and forever changes the lives of the principal protagonist Anna.

Year of Wonders could have easily been a modern feminist tale. Geraldine Brooks has depicted Anna as a strong woman who demonstrates repeatedly that she can make her way in the world without men.  The ending was to me unbelievable, yet it didn't seem forced.   This novel is filled with moments of compassion and sadness, as Anna comes to terms with the lingering presence of the dead. Yet in the background Brooks paints the beauty of the English countryside. Year of Wonders is a long fiction book, but one that any serious read would enjoy.

Up next....
Walter Mosley short stories. Merge/Discipline