Author: Geraldine Brooks
Source: Library, but I am buying a copy
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.
I loved this book. I know it sounds super weird to say you love a book that involves the plague, but I do. My Uncle Mike told me to read it a year ago; I finally got to it the other week, and I wish that I wouldn’t have waited as long as I did! This particular era in history is one I enjoy reading about.
Year of Wonders begins with the smell of rotting apples. Anna, the main character, is so sick of the smell of apples; before, it was a good memory, making cider and pie, but later, after the plague, the smell was reminiscent of death. Apparently the plague smells like apples, which is a fact I will never forget.
Anna Frith is a very young widow, being only 18, with two young sons in the time before the plague. Her husband had perished in a mining accident, leaving her with her flock of sheep and fond memories. Then one day, a dashing tailor named George Vicars sweeps into town, and knocks on Anna’s door, looking for a room to rent. He moves in, and Anna and her family become enamored with him.
The happiness doesn’t last however, as an infected bolt of cloth from London finds its way into George’s hands and onto the backs of many residents of Eyam. Even after George dies a victim of the bubonic plague, people still visit Anna’s cottage, wanting the dresses he sewed for them. It doesn’t take long for the illness to spread through the small, remote village.
This sickness is incomprehensible. There is no understanding of germs , or what causes something like the Black Death. As the more and more people fall prey to the plague, the citizens turn to the church and to the good vicar Mompellion and his wife, Elinor. Is God punishing them? Is God testing them? Vicar Mompellion sways the villagers to take an oath, to close the village borders and to remain isolated until the plague was gone, to prevent the spread of it. A nearby Earl agreed to deliver supplies to the village, so that they would not run out of important items. But doubt still lingered as to why they suffered. Superstition takes over, and some of the villagers come to their own conclusions, making a horrible situation worse and igniting near chaos.
Just imagine living in a 17th century village, isolated from the rest of the world, while one by one your neighbors and friends drop dead from a disease you don’t understand. What would you do? How would you react? And why do some people survive, and how are some people immune?
The village of Eyam is real. Year of Wonders is based on the true account of what happened there in 1665. I did some more reading on the plague and on Eyam after I finished this book, and was amazed at some of the things I read, especially on plague survivors and genetics. You can find a few articles here and here that I found particularly interesting.
I picked this book for my book club choice this month. I am excited to hear what everyone thinks about it!