Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brook


Pages - 310

Published by Harper Collins in 2002

Challenges - Fall Into Reading and A to Z Title.

This book revolves around the year of 1666, when the plague had reached a quiet little town in Derbyshire called Eyam. As the plague begins to take root within Eyam, the villagers make a difficult and extraordinary decision. The whole village decides to isolate itself completely from the rest of the world, keeping the plague contained within.
The story of their year in quarantine is told through the eyes of Anna , an eighteen year old girl already widowed and left with two children. The saying, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', could have been written purely for Anna. What this young girl experiences in one year would finish the strongest person off. Anna endures watching both her own children die of the plague, as well as witnessing her family die and her close friends. Anna emerges at the end of the book with a strong will to survive and make something of her life and her self imposed exile abroad to a new life, would probably never have occurred if she had not suffered as she did. At the beginning of the book, Anna is very wary of the healing women within the town and a little afraid, yet by the end of the book she has taken on their role and has become someone to be relied on by the families who are suffering.
The characters in this book are really well written. They all stand out in my memory. Anys, the herbal women who is later accused of being a witch, really stood out. She was expected to help all the sick people, yet when they died, she was accused of cursing them and bringing on the plague. Mr Monpellion, the town's priest appeared to be a wonderful character to begin with. With the help of his wife Elinor and Anna, they attended to every person within the town who were suffering with the plague. They went from bed to bed, without taking rest for themselves. Yet by the end, Mr Monpellion revealed his true colours and they way he treated his wife was appalling. All the characters in the book show that they are not perfect and they show their failings through the book, which gives you a different opinion of their characters.
The female characters in the book are very strong and I felt that this would be an ideal read for the Women Unbound challenge. Within the book, the women take charge, during a time when it would have been frowned upon. The men often appear weak and don't help the women at all. In one scene, Anna and Elinor, go down a mine to help a young girl bring out a dish of lead, so that she can keep the mine. This is not a job for women, yet no man in the town will help them, so both women work with great effort and manage to save the mine for the girl.
This book appears to be a very detailed account of how the plague affected the country. Brooks writes beautiful prose, that shows the atmosphere of a town suffering. You get a real feel as to how the people suffered and how quickly the plague spread. The way in which each family were slowly worn down by the constant loss and suffering is constantly shown.
I enjoyed reading this book immensely, even though it was such a horrific subject to read about. I feel that I have come away from more knowledgeable about what happened during the years of the plague. Definitely a read I would recommend.

20 comments:

  1. I need to read Brooks! This sounds fantastic, but yes, pretty horrific as well :(

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  2. Wonderful review, I've had this on my bookshelf for over 12 months, its definitely going on my reading list for 2010

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  3. I read one of her books last year and it was great, so I will look for this one now too

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  4. I've never heard of her but this sounds fantastic.

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  5. I read this a year or two ago and your review took me right back. I liked this book - which surprised me! I didn't think I'd enjoy a book about the plague but her writing just swept me away.

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  6. I read this as a book club read and seem to remember there were very mixed reviews. I personally liked the story but in several places found myself asking "WHY"? The actions of several of the characters seemed a little strange and, at times, some reacted in a way that you wouldn't have expected of them.

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  7. I read this earlier in the year and loved it. I'd been put off reading it for a while because I grew up a few miles from Eyam and remember being horrified by the story as a child! It gave me nightmares. I'm glad I eventually read it though.

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  8. I have previously enjoyed books set during the plague (though mostly the one during the Middle Ages) and this sounds like an interesting read!

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  9. I just skipped to the end and am glad to see that you are recommending this book. I've been avoiding reviews of this one because I don't really want to know much about it when I read it.

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  10. I read this when it first came out and really enjoyed it, but then I tend to be a bit odd and have this "thing" about plague books. The next time my husband and I are in the UK visiting family, I intend to visit Eyam.

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  11. Ok. I need to read this. I love the cover you posted! I haven't seen that one before!

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  12. I read this book a few years ago and really liked it, too. However, I don't think I liked the ending.

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  13. Don't think I could handle this one right now, but it sounds like a worthy read.

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  14. This sounds like a captivating, intense book that is definitely worth reading. I'd like to know more about the time of the plague and the people in this story sounds amazing and strong, very inspirational.

    Thank you for a wonderful post, Vivienne.

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  15. I also loved this book. I felt that I learned a lot from it, too.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

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  16. Everyone seems to love Brooks' work. This one really sounds like a book for our times.

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  17. I enjoyed this book also. I have read all of Brooks novels. She writes really well and seems to pick some really interesting subjects. I feel like I get educated on the topic as well as entertained. Thanks for the review.

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  18. Wow, this sounds like a tremendously powerful read. I usually shy away from books about the plague because it is such a somber subject, but this books seems to be about so much more.

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  19. I really need to dish out all my books by Brooks and get started on them. Thanks for the review, Viv!

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  20. Oh I read this one earlier this year and really liked it!

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