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Year of Wonders (2001)

by Geraldine Brooks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,605372803 (3.96)647
Based on the true story of Eyam, the "Plague Village," in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, a tainted bolt of cloth from London carries bubonic infection to this isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners. A visionary young preacher convinces the villagers to seal themselves off in a deadly quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. The story is told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, as she confronts the loss of her family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna emerges as an unlikely and courageous heroine in the village's desperate fight to save itself.… (more)
  1. 200
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (labfs39, wrmjr66, helgagrace)
  2. 50
    World Without End by Ken Follett (GCPLreader)
  3. 61
    The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen (derelicious)
  4. 40
    Pope Joan: A Novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross (meggyweg)
  5. 30
    The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher (meggyweg)
  6. 20
    Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman by Ann Baer (Bookmarque)
  7. 31
    A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (jilld17)
  8. 10
    Restoration by Rose Tremain (kiwiflowa)
  9. 10
    The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman (wordcauldron)
  10. 10
    Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Mopsy)
  11. 10
    The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry (labfs39)
    labfs39: For a non-fiction account of the 1918 pandemic that many thought was the Black Plague come again
  12. 21
    A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: A book for younger readers about the same plague outbreak in the same town. It is interesting to compare the two stories.
  13. 00
    Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan (wordcauldron)
    wordcauldron: A girl who outlives her parents during an influenza outbreak and encounters a deceitful plan by a couple that lost their daughter during the same outbreak.
  14. 00
    A Poultice for a Healer by Caroline Roe (wordcauldron)
  15. 00
    A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (ainsleytewce)
  16. 11
    The Crucible by Arthur Miller (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks may be paired with The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
  17. 00
    The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono (caittilynn)
    caittilynn: I couldn't find the title listed in English, but the Horseman on the Roof tells the story of a young man traveling through the Provence region of France when there is an epidemic of cholera and he is suddenly forced to deal with death, opportunism and fearful townspeople.… (more)
  18. 00
    Revolutionary by Alex Myers (GreenVelvet)
    GreenVelvet: Detailed, meticulously-researched historical fiction with intelligent female protagonists, exploration of gender roles
  19. 00
    The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  20. 00
    The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague by Dorsey Armstrong (wordcauldron)
    wordcauldron: Informative and intriguing university-level lecture about the plague. Sort of a micro history. Good for those who want some non-fiction about this topic!

(see all 20 recommendations)

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» See also 647 mentions

English (365)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (370)
Showing 1-5 of 365 (next | show all)
I agree with all the other reviews: what the hell was the deal with the ending? Dreadful.

Prior to that, this could well have been called "Plague Novel". So generic that I kept feeling like I'd already read it, although I definitely hadn't.

I have no idea how this made it onto the year twelve texts list. I think it's fair to worry about the educational system of today when books like this are being held up as study-worthy while the great classics continue to be purged from school book-lists.

The definitive fictional account of Eyam remains Jill Paton Walsh's "A Parcel of Patterns", junior fiction or not.

EDIT: 23rd March
I've just been reading up on Eyam and now I have even less respect for this book. It has picked and chosen which historical truths to include and, in doing so, tainted the memories of the true people whose names were used. Not impressed.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is so realistic that I felt I was back in 1666 during the plague. The well developed characters and the multiple situations that come up all would be similar to what would happen but written so perfectly that it was almost like reading a diary! So incredible! Well done! ( )
  MontzaleeW | Jun 13, 2020 |
Very prescient, in view of this pandemic the world's going through now, even though written nearly 20 years ago. It tells the story of a plague-struck village in 1666 England which quarantines itself from the outside world, at the behest of its charismatic rector. We are in this small world and the events are told through the voice of the rector's maidservant, Anna, who lives through the acts of good and of wickedness the various reactions to the plague calls forth. The novel is based on the real historical village of Eyam [pronounced Eem] in Derbyshire.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 7, 2020 |

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks

There's a lot to like about Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. Based on a true story, this historical novel weaves a fabulous and heartwarming tale about how one small town in Derbyshire dealt with the plague. At its best, this novel is an evocative, well-written historical fiction that skillfully conjures up the day-to-day hardships of living in a small village overrun by plague and watching two-thirds of your friends, family, and acquaintances die horrible deaths. At its worst, there are some tiny, nit-picky things.

Year of Wonders begins with a bang, letting the reader know that a catastrophe has befallen the inhabitants of a small mountain village in England. Seen through the eyes of Anna Frith, a young widow who serves the village's minister's house, we witness the horror and death sweeping through the area during the year of the plague. Anna Frith is a strong woman and something of a role model; the plague brings out resources in her that she didn't know she had. They find themselves battling not only this dreaded disease, but also superstition, greed, and even murder. And despite their own tragedies, they discover that their efforts make them stronger and that they have more courage than they thought possible. I really liked the focus on the diurnal struggles of a village increasingly depleted of its human resources. What do you do when the women who always prepared herbal remedies are dead? When young children are left parentless?

Brooks writes this story with an elegant, yet powerful touch. The details of village life and the real effects of the plague are tangible and stunning. This is literally a film played out on the page, with scene after scene so richly written that the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. As the seasons pass, Brooks expresses the fear, anger and eventually, numbed grief turning to hope (some of it warped) of the village and Anna. The plague itself is written almost as a character; it lives and breathes and there are many times when I found myself holding my breath, wondering what was going to happen, next.

Anna is splendidly written, a mix of feminism and the Puritan values of the time. From the beginning, you know she's destined for more than working the fields or washing dishes. While it would have been easy to turn Anna into some kind of saint, Brooks does a wonderful job of showing Anna's flaws without making them larger than the story itself.

There is also a surprisingly misogynistic passage from a previously likable character in these final pages which really turned me off and seemed entirely inconsistent with everything we've learned about this character up until this point. the character of Michael Mompellion is compelling and strongly written, but at the end of the story, I was shocked by some of the revelations about him. I kept wondering if they were completely believable, or if it was just me.

The one area (and it's a small one) where I felt this story seemed implausible was the final chapter. Maybe I was missing something, but given the year and the role women played in society, I found where Anna ended up to be a little bit too pat. (I cannot say anything else without giving out spoilers). Maybe it could and did happen, but compared to the tone of the book before it, it was odd. I *did* think that she ended up with the life she deserved, but the way it was written needed a little more suspension of belief.

This was an amazing book, one I will definitely read again and recommend to my family and friends. When I finished it, the one thing that surprised me the most was that the book was only just over 300 pages - this reads like a huge, epic story. I was literally spell-bound, and finding myself reading until 4 am the first night, because I literally could not put this book down. this is not just a story about disease and death, but also a moving tale about survival, passion, compassion and unlikely heroes.

Brooks' writing is truly elegant, and Anna's thoughts and words are written in the lyrical but simple cadence of the 1660's. (Complete with many archaic words that are no longer used...most of which I had to look up...! Which by the way, I love.). There is also much historical research including not only the plague itself, but also of the living conditions in a small English village during the 17th Century. With this much detail, research, and talent going for her, I will definitely be reading more of this talented author.

5 huge stars.

Quotes:

"God warns us not to love any earthly thing above Himself, and yet He sets in a mother’s heart such a fierce passion for her babes that I do not comprehend how He can test us so."

"I knew how easy it is for widow to be turned witch in the common mind, and the first cause generally is that she meddles somehow in medicinals."

"I told myself I was crying for the waste of it; that those fingers that had acquired so much skill would never fashion another lovely thing. In truth, I think I was crying for a different kind of waste; wondering why I had waited until so near this death to feel the touch of those hands."

"There are some who deem this mountainside bleak country, and I can see how it might seem so: the land all chewed up by the miners, their stowes like scaffolds upon the moors, and their bings like weedy molehills interrupting the pale mauve tide of the heather."

"He instructed me how futile it is to wallow in regret for that which cannot be changed and how atonement might be made for even the gravest sins."

"By gathering and sorting my own feelings so, I was finally able to fashion a scale on which I could weigh my father’s nature and find a balance between my disgust for him and an understanding of him; my guilt in the matter of his death against the debt he owed me for the manner of my life. At the finish of it, I felt free of him, and I was able to think calmly once more."

Archaic words used: scrims, choused, bowpots of jessamine and gilly flowers, bavins, boose, rake-shamed, fanfarroon, periwig, flux, cataplasms, hirsel, nowt, clough, gaol, blains, carbuncles, lapwing, vainglory, masty, scrin, pipkin, whisket, serried, stooks, Shrovetide, cluzened, malter, mun, trews, halberd, kine, caudle, clemmed, mullein, betony, fother, jabot, gravid, rowans, sward, cucking, placket, manikin, vervain, boatswains, sennight, tare, harrowed, cockerel, turves, vicuals, blebs, pillory, surplice, handfasting, phaeton, stook, carrack, cuddy, gimbaled, adamantine, and euphoniously...! ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks

There's a lot to like about Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. Based on a true story, this historical novel weaves a fabulous and heartwarming tale about how one small town in Derbyshire dealt with the plague. At its best, this novel is an evocative, well-written historical fiction that skillfully conjures up the day-to-day hardships of living in a small village overrun by plague and watching two-thirds of your friends, family, and acquaintances die horrible deaths. At its worst, there are some tiny, nit-picky things.

Year of Wonders begins with a bang, letting the reader know that a catastrophe has befallen the inhabitants of a small mountain village in England. Seen through the eyes of Anna Frith, a young widow who serves the village's minister's house, we witness the horror and death sweeping through the area during the year of the plague. Anna Frith is a strong woman and something of a role model; the plague brings out resources in her that she didn't know she had. They find themselves battling not only this dreaded disease, but also superstition, greed, and even murder. And despite their own tragedies, they discover that their efforts make them stronger and that they have more courage than they thought possible. I really liked the focus on the diurnal struggles of a village increasingly depleted of its human resources. What do you do when the women who always prepared herbal remedies are dead? When young children are left parentless?

Brooks writes this story with an elegant, yet powerful touch. The details of village life and the real effects of the plague are tangible and stunning. This is literally a film played out on the page, with scene after scene so richly written that the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. As the seasons pass, Brooks expresses the fear, anger and eventually, numbed grief turning to hope (some of it warped) of the village and Anna. The plague itself is written almost as a character; it lives and breathes and there are many times when I found myself holding my breath, wondering what was going to happen, next.

Anna is splendidly written, a mix of feminism and the Puritan values of the time. From the beginning, you know she's destined for more than working the fields or washing dishes. While it would have been easy to turn Anna into some kind of saint, Brooks does a wonderful job of showing Anna's flaws without making them larger than the story itself.

There is also a surprisingly misogynistic passage from a previously likable character in these final pages which really turned me off and seemed entirely inconsistent with everything we've learned about this character up until this point. the character of Michael Mompellion is compelling and strongly written, but at the end of the story, I was shocked by some of the revelations about him. I kept wondering if they were completely believable, or if it was just me.

The one area (and it's a small one) where I felt this story seemed implausible was the final chapter. Maybe I was missing something, but given the year and the role women played in society, I found where Anna ended up to be a little bit too pat. (I cannot say anything else without giving out spoilers). Maybe it could and did happen, but compared to the tone of the book before it, it was odd. I *did* think that she ended up with the life she deserved, but the way it was written needed a little more suspension of belief.

This was an amazing book, one I will definitely read again and recommend to my family and friends. When I finished it, the one thing that surprised me the most was that the book was only just over 300 pages - this reads like a huge, epic story. I was literally spell-bound, and finding myself reading until 4 am the first night, because I literally could not put this book down. this is not just a story about disease and death, but also a moving tale about survival, passion, compassion and unlikely heroes.

Brooks' writing is truly elegant, and Anna's thoughts and words are written in the lyrical but simple cadence of the 1660's. (Complete with many archaic words that are no longer used...most of which I had to look up...! Which by the way, I love.). There is also much historical research including not only the plague itself, but also of the living conditions in a small English village during the 17th Century. With this much detail, research, and talent going for her, I will definitely be reading more of this talented author.

5 huge stars.
(***The audiobook is read by the author, Geraldine Brooks...!!)


Quotes:

"God warns us not to love any earthly thing above Himself, and yet He sets in a mother’s heart such a fierce passion for her babes that I do not comprehend how He can test us so."

"I knew how easy it is for widow to be turned witch in the common mind, and the first cause generally is that she meddles somehow in medicinals."

"I told myself I was crying for the waste of it; that those fingers that had acquired so much skill would never fashion another lovely thing. In truth, I think I was crying for a different kind of waste; wondering why I had waited until so near this death to feel the touch of those hands."

"There are some who deem this mountainside bleak country, and I can see how it might seem so: the land all chewed up by the miners, their stowes like scaffolds upon the moors, and their bings like weedy molehills interrupting the pale mauve tide of the heather."

"He instructed me how futile it is to wallow in regret for that which cannot be changed and how atonement might be made for even the gravest sins."

"By gathering and sorting my own feelings so, I was finally able to fashion a scale on which I could weigh my father’s nature and find a balance between my disgust for him and an understanding of him; my guilt in the matter of his death against the debt he owed me for the manner of my life. At the finish of it, I felt free of him, and I was able to think calmly once more."

Archaic words used: scrims, choused, bowpots of jessamine and gilly flowers, bavins, boose, rake-shamed, fanfarroon, periwig, flux, cataplasms, hirsel, nowt, clough, gaol, blains, carbuncles, lapwing, vainglory, masty, scrin, pipkin, whisket, serried, stooks, Shrovetide, cluzened, malter, mun, trews, halberd, kine, caudle, clemmed, mullein, betony, fother, jabot, gravid, rowans, sward, cucking, placket, manikin, vervain, boatswains, sennight, tare, harrowed, cockerel, turves, vicuals, blebs, pillory, surplice, handfasting, phaeton, stook, carrack, cuddy, gimbaled, adamantine, and euphoniously...! ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 365 (next | show all)
Discriminating readers who view the term historical novel with disdain will find that this debut by praised journalist Brooks (Foreign Correspondence) is to conventional work in the genre as a diamond is to a rhinestone. With an intensely observant eye, a rigorous regard for period detail, and assured, elegant prose, Brooks re-creates a year in the life of a remote British village decimated by the bubonic plague.
added by lucyknows | editSCIS (pay site)
 

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Brooks, Geraldineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diano, FrancescaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
O let it be enough what thou hast done,
When spotted deaths ran arm'd through every street,
With poison'd darts, which not the good could shun,
The speedy could outfly, or valiant meet.

The living few, and frequent funerals then,
Proclaim'd thy wrath on this forsaken place:
And now those few who are return'd agen
Thy searching judgments to their dwellings trace.


- From Annus Mirabilis, The Year of Wonders, 1666, by John Dryden
Dedication
For Tony
Without you, I never would
have gone there.
First words
I used to love this season.
Quotations
Good yield does not come without suffering, it does not come without struggle, and toil, and yes, loss.
God warns us not to love any earthly thing above Himself, and yet He sets in a mother's heart such a fierce passion for her babes that I do not comprehend how He can test us so.
And so, as generally happens, those who have most give least, and those with less somehow make shrift to share.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer.

Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the plague year, 1666, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice. Convinced by a visionary young minister, they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease.

But as death reaches into every housebold, faith frays. When villagers turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As she struggles to survive, a year of plague becomes, instead, annus mirablilis, a "year of wonders."

Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged mountain spine of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and hailed as an "astonishing re-creation of how it felt to be a victim and survivor of the year of wonders and horrors," the novel examines the collision of faith, science, and superstition at the cusp of the modern era. Exploring love and learning, loss and renewal, Year of Wonders succeeds as a spellbinding work of historical fiction and an unforgettable read.

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