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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
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Year of Wonders (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Geraldine Brooks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,031273691 (3.97)514
Member:BoundTogetherForGood
Title:Year of Wonders
Authors:Geraldine Brooks
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2002), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Own, Historical Fiction, Culture-British, Plague, Ang, November 2012

Work details

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (2001)

  1. 180
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (labfs39, wrmjr66, helgagrace)
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  6. 20
    The Crucible by Arthur Miller (lucyknows)
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    SylviaC: A book for younger readers about the same plague outbreak in the same town. It is interesting to compare the two stories.
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English (271)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (274)
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
I love Geraldine Brooks. This is the third of her novels I have read (caleb's crossing and the people of the book are the other two). She has an amazing capacity to create worlds long forgotten in exquisite detail. where does she pick up the language - the turns of phrase, and the individual words to describe objects (posset, whisk) that make her books so authentic?

A year of wonders is about a small village in rural england in 1665-1666 that becomes 'the plague town' and decides to place itself into voluntary quarantine on the urging of the charismatic rector, Mr Mompellion. Apparently this really did happen and the 'plague town' sign still exists.

Brooks conjures up the horror, but also the pragmatism of the village folk, grounded in the hardships of every day life, as two thirds of the village eventually succumb to the plague. I thought the tension between faith and disaster was beautifully drawn out in this novel - the rector claiming that the village had been singled out by god for a higher purpose - and the wavering faith of the community, including dalliances with witchcraft as more and more loved ones died.

Central to the story is the relationship between Elinor Mompellion, the rector's wife and Anna, a young widow, and the Mompellion's maid, who loses both her children early in the story. Elinor takes anna under her wing and together they do good - learning how to make healing medicine after the murder as witches of the village's two herbalists, risking their lives by dynamiting a lead mine, to raise the requisite amount of lead needed to prevent the circling opportunists from robbing a poor orphan of her rights to the lead seam, her only source of income, assisting with births and caring for the sick.

Elinor is killed by Anna's deranged step-mother, after she tries to show her love and acceptance. This act signals the descent of Michael Mompellion into unrequited grief and the rejection of god. Anna, trying to 'be a friend to Michael', stands by him and tries to coax him from his misery. The thing that jolts him out of his stupor is Anna herself - determined to get on with life. A spark is ignited between them and Anna and Michael have a passionate affair - cut short when she he tells her that he deprived Elinor of physical affection throughout their marriage as punishment for an indiscretion earlier in life that had ended with her becoming pregnant and self-aborting the baby.

Anna is repulsed by the rector and the way he has treated her friend and runs from him. On the way she helps the mother of an arch (class) enemy give birth to an unwanted baby. Anna negotiates to keep the baby for a sum and flees. Her travels take her to sea, where she nearly dies from wretchedness, but is determined to make it through for the sake of the baby. The boat she is on stops in an arabic port (? morocco? turkey?) and she alights. There she becomes one of the wives of a famous doctor abu bey and pursues her medical studies. At the books close, we see her laughing and playing in the walled garden of the compound with her daughters, Aisha and Elinor who has the grey eyes of her father.

A superb book. Highly recommended ( )
  ilovejfranzen | Dec 2, 2014 |
The ending was just so random. ( )
  megansbooklist | Nov 30, 2014 |
Interesting, thought-provoking. A couple of parts were sexually explicit/vulgar. ( )
  alrtree | Sep 3, 2014 |
Like other reviewers, I have 2 rankings for this one: 5 stars for the bulk of the book, and 1 star for the ending.

*SPOILERS*

First, the pluses: I loved the writing, the sense of place and community, the look at their day-to-day lives, and the dread that emerges and increases as the disease spreads. Purely by coincidence, this is the second book about the plague that I've read in the past 2 weeks, and both did a wonderful job of getting across how isolating and paranoia-inducing it would be to have your village decay around you. Well done.

I also generally liked the characters (until the end): Anna, the survivor; the Rector, who continues his mission and searches for meaning in the midst of catastrophe; Elinor, his wife, a gentle and loving helpmeet; and the rest of the townsfolk.

And then we get to the ending--what a letdown. We learn that the Rector and Elinor's relationship is the total opposite of what we've been led to believe, and he's exposed as a cruel, judgmental hypocrite. There's no hint of it until then, either--throughout the book, he advocates mercy and forgiveness, even when people do heinous things. But he punishes his wife for being human for their entire marriage, and she gratefully goes along with it?? Please. I'm not really sure why the infidelity of Mrs. Bradford is brought in at the end, either, unless it's just the setup to get Anna out of the village and away from the Rector. The whole last section just feels like the ending of a different book, is all.

In the end, I'm wondering who's worse--Mr. Bradford, who's open about his cruelty, or the Rector, who hides it. ( )
2 vote Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
Beautifully written, but I found the ending disappointing. Maybe that's more my problem than Geraldine Brooks'! ( )
1 vote zappa | Jul 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 271 (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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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Geraldine Brooksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brooks, GeraldineNarratorsecondary authorsome 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.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142001430, Paperback)

Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders describes the 17th-century plague that is carried from London to a small Derbyshire village by an itinerant tailor. As villagers begin, one by one, to die, the rest face a choice: do they flee their village in hope of outrunning the plague or do they stay? The lord of the manor and his family pack up and leave. The rector, Michael Mompellion, argues forcefully that the villagers should stay put, isolate themselves from neighboring towns and villages, and prevent the contagion from spreading. His oratory wins the day and the village turns in on itself. Cocooned from the outside world and ravaged by the disease, its inhabitants struggle to retain their humanity in the face of the disaster. The narrator, the young widow Anna Frith, is one of the few who succeeds. With Mompellion and his wife, Elinor, she tends to the dying and battles to prevent her fellow villagers from descending into drink, violence, and superstition. All is complicated by the intense, inexpressible feelings she develops for both the rector and his wife. Year of Wonders sometimes seems anachronistic as historical fiction; Anna and Mompellion occasionally appear to be modern sensibilities unaccountably transferred to 17th-century Derbyshire. However, there is no mistaking the power of Brooks's imagination or the skill with which she constructs her story of ordinary people struggling to cope with extraordinary circumstances. --Nick Rennison, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This gripping historical novel is 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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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