Summary and book reviews of Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders

A Novel of The Plague

By Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2001,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2002,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Exploring love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of science and religion to interpret the world at the cusp of the modern era, Year of Wonders is at once a story of unconventional love and a richly detailed evocation of a riveting moment in history. Like Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha and A. S. Byatt's Posession, Year of Wonders blends learning and romance into an unforgettable read.

Chapter One
Apple-picking Time

I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there'd be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stooks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me.

They brought the apples yesterday, a cartload for the rectory cellar. Late pickings, of course: I saw brown spots on more than a few. I had words with the carter over it, but he told me we were lucky to get as good as we got, and I suppose it's true enough. There are so few people to do the picking. So few people to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. All of the characters in this novel have their failings and as a result they are all fully human. Are you surprised by the secrets Elinor and Michael Mompellion each reveal to Anna about their marriage? How do they change your feelings about each character? Do they make either seem weaker in a way?
  2. The Bradford family bears the brunt of Mompellion's rage when they leave town to save themselves. However, weren't they only doing what every other noble family did in those days: run because they had the means to run? Setting aside the events near the end of the novel (which make it clear that one would be hard-pressed to find a redeeming quality in any of them), can you really blame ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Painstaking re-creation of 17th-century England, swallowed by over-the-top melodramatics a wildly uneven first novel by an Australian-born journalist.

Library Journal

Fans of Judith Merkle Riley's historical novels will find much to savor in the new work. Recommended for all fiction collections.

Publishers Weekly

Discriminating readers who view the term historical novel with disdain will find that this debut by praised journalist Brooks is to conventional work in the genre as a diamond is to a rhinestone.

Author Blurb Sena Jeter Naslund
An unforgettable read, this splendid novel enriches our human memory of both despair and courage.

Author Blurb Arthur Golden
...leaves us with the memory of vivid characters struggling in timeless human ways with the hardships confronting them...and engaging story.

Reader Reviews
Vanessa

Everything
This book was more of a story from a girl who learns so much but I also liked it because I noticed something that no one else did. I saw that this wonderful girl had love but also had faith. Imagine yourself as her being forced into all the things ...   Read More

Elizabeth

Outstanding
Using this horrible era in history as the basis of the book, it takes you into the homes and into the lives of the people in the 1600's who had old myths about witchcraft, awful ways of curing illnesses, and describes their ignorance of medical ...   Read More

Elizabeth

Outstanding
Using this horrible era in history as the basis of the book, it takes you into the homes and into the lives of the people in the 1600's who had old myths about witchcraft, awful ways of curing illnesses, and describes their ignorance of medical ...   Read More

Katherine

Anything
This was a rather intriguing book but I found myself asking for more content. I also found some of the things in this book hard to believe and much of it common knowledge for anyone who would read a minor passage on the plague. I was looking for ...   Read More

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