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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by…
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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

by Geraldine Brooks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,819None723 (3.98)496
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    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)
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English (262)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (265)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
A novel about the plague, from the perspective of someone who is struggling to survive surrounded by death. I have enjoyed every book by the author... I love getting absorbed into another time experiencing history from fresh perspective. ( )
  saradiann | Apr 8, 2014 |
This is a fictional account of the events that took place in the village of Eyam in 1665/1666. This is the village in Derbyshire that, when the plague arrived, shut its boundaries and remained in isolation until the plague had passed. That much is true. This is probably not true, but it is fairly convincing. the people, cooped up and loosing their population at a relentless rate no doubt suffered both mentally and physically. the desperate wish to cling to any hope, even if that be false, was vividly evoked. It was narrated by Anna, in the first person, and the path of her growth in confidence and experience was very interesting.
The only thing that, for me, let this down was the ending. The complete break had to be made, but I'm not sure that Anna's eventual situation was terribly believable, which was s shame after the highly plausible events that had preceded it. ( )
  Helenliz | Feb 1, 2014 |
A chance discovery of a real-life tale of personal sacrifice and survival made such a lasting impression on the Wall Street Journal's Middle East correspondent Geraldine Brooks, that it lingered in her memory for almost ten years.

While she was taking a walking holiday in the UK's Peak District she noticed a sign for the village of Eyam bearing the beguiling descriptor 'the plague village'. An exhibition in a nearby parish church explained how the term derived from an episode in 1665 when bubonic plague descended on this community and in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease the villagers shut themselves off from the world. Brookes began to see parallels between the villagers' story of self sacrifice and instances she had encountered during her time in some of the world's hot spots of people who under the pressure of extreme circumstances found unexpected reservoirs of bravery. The result was her international best selling novel Year of Wonders that she wrote ten years after her visit to Eyam.

Published in 2001, this is a novel which depicts the events of that fateful year of 1665. It began with the death of a tailor. Then spread quickly to his customers and soon the villagers began to dread the signs of high fever and supperating pustules that presaged the imminent death of their neighbours; their sons and their daughters; their wives and husbands. The local landed gentry fled in fear of their lives but the rest remained, persuaded by their forceful rector Michael Mompellion that a voluntary quarantine could prevent the spread of the “plague-seeds” beyond their boundaries.

The story of this decision and its aftermath is told through the eyes of Anna Frith, a young maidservant who assists the rector in his determination to contain the disease. She's a spirited, resourceful character who forms a close bond with the minister's wife in her endeavour to use herbs and plants to bring some comfort to the villagers who do succumb to the disease. Not that there is much solace in this village even for those who escape the pestilence. Many of them suffer in ways other than death, losing their reason, their faith and in some cases, their humanity. But as they weaken, Anna's resourcefulness and courage gives her the strength not just to survive but to thrive and grow.

To re-create the past, Brooks drew on records that explained contemporary beliefs about the plague, the lives of lead miners and shepherds such as those who lived in this part of Derbyshire, clothing and patterns of speech. But in the absence of any substantial body of written material from the villagers themselves, much of what she recounts as their actual experience came from her imagination.

For Brooks, that process of imagining life in a community so far removed by time and location from her own world, involved drawing on personal experiences and finding resonances in contemporary life. Talking to students on the Plagues, Witches and War MOOC course which features Year of Wonders as a set text, Brooks argued that emotions and sensations don't change through the centuries even if the particular circumstances differ. The intense pain of a difficult and life threatening childbirth she herself experienced would be the same endured by a woman in the same circumstances in the seventeenth century:

What we [historical fiction authors] do, we empathize, we put ourselves in someone else's shoes. This is what the nature of being a human being is, at its best, is empathy. I can presume to know her consciousness, her pain, her frustration....these things are what make us human, and they don't change.

It may be that empathetic approach was one reason why many of the human reactions portrayed in Year of Wonders seemed plausible even if the events described were almost beyond belief. I wouldn't rank it as a wonderful novel (some of the dialogue is rather strained and the ending pushes the boundaries of credulity) but it was still very readable and a big step above the other set texts on the course. ( )
  Mercury57 | Jan 5, 2014 |
Very insightful, enjoyable book. Ms. Brooks writing style appeals to me; I am a fan of hers and she never disappoints. However, when I finished this book I did clean my house ~ soup-to-nuts, as they say. ( )
  VjPratt51 | Jan 1, 2014 |

Note: No specific spoilers, but this review is spoiler-ish:

The majority of this book is so heartrending and beautifully written, I am crying just recalling Anna and what happens to her. Her honor and yearning are completely THERE every page, and you just want to rail against the universe when slowly everything is taken from her, bit by horrible bit, and she perseveres.

Then there's the end. I feel like if I'd lost the last 60 pages in the depths of the couch and didn't realize it, I would have loved the book more than most I've ever read. The end is strangely disconnected and wraps things up in a weird bow that is completely off base for all that went before it. It cheapens the rest of Anna's story, I think. I could have lived with her going somewhere unknown.

That said, I recommend the book. The majority is worth it. It's beautiful.

I originally read this because it looked similar to Connie Willis's Doomsday Book (all the great parts of that book, in the past plague village.) And it did fulfill that same desire. This book was far more personal and heart wrenching than Doomsday Book, FYI for Willis readers who may come here for the same reason. ( )
  LarissaGBrown | Dec 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (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)
 

» Add other authors (27 possible)

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)

» see all 8 descriptions

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