Year of Wonders
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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,

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.

Customer Reviews:

  • 3 Brooks books in a week is ...
    probably too much. Brooks sure has a horrible (& probably realistic) view of humanity (& religions). I enjoyed People of the Book (despite some slow parts) but I had to stop half way through March and I flipped through to the end of this one. BOTH OF THESE LATTER BOOKS WERE SO DEPRESSING!!! Except for the last few pages of Wonders - hear lies the Hollywood ending as someone else noted. ...more info
  • A "wonder" at some, and not so on others...
    Wanted to give it 3 stars because some parts lagged a bit or else became much too introspective for me.

    But then again, there were bits that were really emotional and heartwrenching (to the point that I actually felt a tightening in the chest) that made the overall impact of the novel subtle yet still powerfully staggering.

    The ending was a surprise, but I suppose that the author felt the need to tweak things a bit to hone in the lasting message she wanted to impart...(how the heck could anyone really know why authors write as they do?)

    One thing is for sure, stories of survival and the naked, unabashed portrayal of human failings in the midst of turmoil are what make such reading experiences always a new discovery of yet another dimension of ourselves....more info
  • you MUST read this book!!!!
    Year of Wonders is a novel inspired by the true story of the little town of Eyam in Derbyshire, known as the Plague Village, during the years 1665 - 1666. Although the cause of how the plague showed up in their village is still unknown, the villagers' decision to quarantine themselves in order to stop the spread of the deadly disease has sealed their place in history.

    Geraldine Brooks provides us with a fictional account of what life looked like from within the Plague Village and gives us insight into the human nature that accompanies tragedy.

    Anna Frith is a widowed housemaid busy raising her two sons and working in the home of the town's priest and his wife, the Montpelliers. When Anna's lodger dies she suspects the plague to be the cause of his awful death and it's not long before her fears are confirmed. The spread is rampant and the fatalities of the villagers grow daily. No one is safe from the disease and every Sunday the church pews get emptier. Anna and Mrs. Montpellier team up to care for those afflicted while Mr. Montpellier works tirelessly bringing comfort to the dying.

    What really fascinated me in this novel was the human factor - how the villagers dealt with the constant death of their loved ones and neighbors, the trauma of self-exile and how their faith was tried. They sought a reason why this plague had come upon them, to understand...why was God punishing them or was he testing them?

    My favorite part of the novel was the friendship between Anna and Mrs. Montpellier, which has been strengthened by the tragedy is really beautiful to read and you can't help but love both of them and stand in awe of their strength.

    The ending is a bit of a rollercoaster with the revealing of secrets and hidden desires realized. Brooks ties the ends up nicely and while I was a little surprised by the ending, it was a pleasant surprise and I felt a great way to say goodbye to Anna, knowing she would have the happy future she so deserved.

    This poor book has been sitting on my TBR tower for ages and I could just kick myself for waiting this long to finally read it! Brooks' writing is brilliant, I can't wait to read more from her. Do yourself a favor and read this! You won't be sorry you did =)
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  • Great Book, Unrealistic Ending
    Year of Wonders is the story of a small English village invaded by the Plague in 1665 and 1666. The villagers quarantine themselves in order to stop the Plague from spreading to surrounding places. Told from the perspective of Anna, a young widowed maid for the rector and his wife, the story follows the village from the first case of the Plague until the infection and two thirds of the population are gone.

    This book captivated me from the very beginning. The fact that it's loosely based on a true story is a big reason that I found it so interesting. Brooks made you feel what it would be like to be there and to be one of those people. I felt their fear, their sadness, and their grief. My one complaint about the book, and the reason I didn't give it five stars, is the ending. I felt it was unrealistic and it seemed tacked on almost as an afterthought....more info
  • Very entertaining but problematic
    I had heard about this book from some book buddies, and decided to give it a try. I have always been fascinated with literature about the plague, so this really looked like my cuppa.

    Brief summary, no spoilers:

    The story starts out in the fall of 1666, and we are introduced to our protagonist, Anna Frith. We know she has been recently widowed, and we suspect that she has lost her two young sons to the plague. We are also introduced to a young Rector, named Mompellion. We can feel the attraction that Anna has for the young man, and we also know that he was suffered a terrible loss.

    The narrative then goes back to Spring 1665, and we found out what has happened during that terrible year.

    There are many things to recommend with this book. For one thing, I found it a page-turner and a quick read. I read it in two sessions.

    I also learned a bit about the plague, and it was interesting to see the attempts made by a community at isolation. So little was known about the plague and what made it contagious - and when you couple this with the deep religious fervor of that time, in particular Puritanism, you can see that the situation and the blame-game can run amok.

    I did have some problems with the book. I thought there were certain anachronisms that temporarily threw me out of the story. Sometimes, even if a term may be technically right in the sense it was in common usage at that time, it can still be distracting for the reader, if the reader isn't aware of this. As an example, this is what happened to me whenever I heard the characters use the word "prick". They are a few other examples of this type of thing in the book.

    I also thought that Anna (and another female character) showed certain modern sensibilities. She always seemed like she had one foot firmly rooted in the mid 1600's, and the other in modern times.

    Lastly, I was a little thrown off by the end of the book. Not necessarily upset by it, but it seemed as if it were from a different book, and seemed like a quick wrap-up by the author.

    Still, despite these quibbles, this was a quick fun read....more info
  • Fantastic...great piece of literature!
    I could not wait to get back to this book every time I put it down! Well-written and interesting. The amazing strength of the main character is what makes this book readable, when the topic itself is so depressing. It provides a wonderful insight into life in 1666, during the year of the plague in a small English rural town of about 300. Many die after a pact is made to quarantine themselves. The journey is a tough one for Anna Frith but she finds her true calling through this ordeal, and the ending is wonderful.
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  • History made real
    This is a great historic 'novel'. Giving a storyline to a major plague in English history is a task in itself, but it's great! I am English and from around the area it all takes place and she describes the area and surroundings perfectly..centuries later, you can still see these buildings and imagine them as they were. Some of the old dialect she uses, is sometimes confusing....Me and my English friends had to discuss some of the words, but you can put them into context of the sentence and be right.
    great book..disappointing finish....
    All in all, a good was passed around a lot and everyone enjoyed it..
    ...more info
  • Year of Wonders is an amazing story of the plague
    I have recently read the novel, Year of Wonders: a Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks, and I found it to be a delightful and realistic story of the plague that struck Eyam, Debyshire in the mid 1600's. The first symptoms of the plague were found in the house of Anna Frith who was a household maid for the town's rector and his wife amongst other families. By the time it is confirmed that Anna's lodger did indeed die of the plague, the symptoms had already begun to spread. With the help of the rector, the town made the decision to barricade themselves until the plague left them entirely, which took about a year. They decided that no one was allowed in and no one was allowed to leave so that they might protect the neighboring villages and the rest of England.

    Throughout the novel, Anna learns the most out of all the characters. Year of Wonders is the story of her growth throughout the time of their besiegement. She becomes so much more independent and learns what is really important to her after losing so many of her loved ones. It is very interesting finding out how she chose to act upon the cards that were dealt to her.

    After reading this book, I would say that the most important themes are those of self-development. Every single character - no matter what the size of their role was - grew at some point throughout the novel. The characters all learn from their mistakes and from those of others. Anna in particular learns about herself by trying to prevent others from making bad decisions. All of this has taught me that anyone can make a difference - no matter how large or small their contribution is.

    I would definitely recommend this book for anyone age fourteen and above. Anna's narration is absolutely perfect - it makes the whole story come to life with all of the realistic detail Brooks puts into it. One thing to be careful about, however, is that some of the plague scenes in the beginning of the novel can get pretty graphic. Once the mood is set, though, there aren't as many scenes like that. My only other suggestion is that you don't read the epilogue. The novel has a satisfying ending, but I felt as if the epilogue ruined the ambience of the whole story. Everything changed so much that I felt like I didn't know the characters anymore, which was a let down after reading such a fantastic book....more info
  • Year of Misery
    Compelling & predictably sad story of an English village wracked by the plague. Heartbreaking to read as a mother--thank goodness I cannot relate to what some women had to go through, before the introduction of antibiotics, which we all now take for granted. Depressing tale, very well written, with a glimmer of hope & renewal at the end. ...more info
  • A Missed Opportunity
    Geraldine Brooks sets `Year of Wonders' in the `plague year' of the 1666 (a year which also featured the Great Fire in London). Although the plague recurred frequently in England throughout the 17th century, in this particular plague year a plague-infested village decides to seal themselves off from the rest of the world. Brooks discovered this real `Plague Village' of Eyam, Derbyshire on a walk around the English countryside and that discovery eventually led to this book.

    I was prepared to love this book; it's set in the fascinating 17th century and I find the plague and its impact on society, economy, and religion compelling. I can only give the book a modest recommendation because Brooks' story telling is toneless and few of her characters held the reader's interest . Brooks uses one of the plague survivors to tell the story retrospectively, but this narrator is remains emotionally distant.

    The elements of great story are here. Unimaginable loss and suffering, madness, hysterical searches for the plague's cause (witchcraft? God's disfavor? Nature?), heroism, sacrifice, avarice and the whole human array. At least for this reader, Brooks rarely connects in a way that makes the reader care about these poor people. The contrived and improbable epilogue mars what had otherwise been a strong ending. Others may appreciate Brooks' writing and find this book to be sublime, but this reviewer finds it merely subpar.

    ...more info
  • Wonderful historical fiction
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it made me read more about the period and setting. I thought it was excellent. I generally do not mind historical novels like this, which loosely fictionalize real events and take some artistic liberties along the way, if there is an epilogue that sorts out fact from fiction at the end, like the author does at the end of this one. ...more info
  • Predictable
    Year of Wonders was ok. It was incredibly predictable. I would call it very light historical fiction. Parts of it were good, but I was left wondering more about the real Plague Village servant instead of this trumped up fluffy character, Anna, who just happens to "blossom" into this superwoman heroine. Oh, please. For example, this woman was illiterate and within a few years she's reading and writing English and then understanding Latin in addition to holding two jobs, housework, managing a flock of sheep and raising two babies?!? Maybe they didn't need sleep back then or had more than 24 hours in a day. Oh wait...let's not forget nursing the plague victims. And don't get me started on the ending..... I won't spoil it, but it felt like it was the ending to a completely different novel with completely different characters. In conclusion, this is a good book to bring on vacation - an easy read with little substance....more info
  • Book of Wonders
    I really enjoyed this book although when I read the Epilogue, I was in fact disappointed to learn that the author took liberties with the Pastor and his role in the book. It intrigued me enough to go back and learn more about the Plague. Worth the read - pretty quick and easy...more info
  • Year of Wonders
    `Year of Wonders' is a complete waste of time. The plot is unnecessarily tragic, completely unrealistic, and totally ridiculous. Don't read this book, you won't regret it....more info
  • Year of Wonders
    This is a beautifully written, compassionate novel of the 1666 plague in a small English village. The story centers around the life of a housemaid, Anna Frith, and how she and her village inhabitants responded and met the challenge of this horrific event. It is a story of courage and hope without undue sentimentality. Attention to historical detail, authentic characters, and a dramatic plot make this a very worthwhile read. ...more info
  • Good research but...
    I'm not a fan of historicals as they often veer into silly romance and the reader is generally stuck with the narrator/protagonist's point of view, which is usually that of an ill-used girl (servant) who is savvy beyond her years, education, and background as to not be very credible as a character. I prefer factual accounts of history (if well written), but this novel was recommended by a friend and I persevered to the end--which gave the impression of being "tagged on". The novel itself was an unrelenting series of shock, horror, and death (to be expected in a novel about the plague, but some of the gory details seemed unnecessary). At the point where Anna and Elinor go down the mine to save the child's stake and the protagonist says something like, "Of course, we had no skill or knowledge in the ways of mining," I said to myself: well, yeah! Apart from the death of her babies, I managed to stay dry-eyed throughout as I never felt totally drawn into the story. What I enjoyed most were the references to the way people lived back then, but this aspect could have been gleaned from a textbook. ...more info
  • Heroes Among Us
    While hiking in rural England in the summer of 1990, Geraldine Brooks stumbled upon a small village that has come to be commemorated as the Plague Village because of what happened there in 1665-1666. She was so deeply touched by what she learned of the events in Eyam during those plague years that a decade later they served as the basis for her first novel, Year of Wonders. Her novel begins with the few known facts about Eyam's plague year and puts a human face on the village whose people made the decision to quarantine themselves for however long it took to protect neighboring villages from spread of the disease that threatened Eyam's very existence.

    Central to the story is young Anna Frith, an 18-year old mother of two young sons who has been widowed by the mining accident that took her husband's life. Unable to work the mining claim that had provided a decent living for her family before her husband's sudden death, Anna is reduced to working as a servant at the village rectory and to taking in a border sent her way by Michael Mompellion, the rector. Unfortunately for everyone in Eyam, the new cloth that was brought into the village by this traveling London tailor was infected with the "seeds" of the plague that was soon to devastate the village.

    Eyam, a village of less than 400 citizens, had only one church and Michael Mompellion, its rector, was depended upon for his moral guidance and leadership. So when he asked his congregation to close the village off, with no one allowed in or out until the plague had run its course, they reluctantly agreed that it was the right thing to do. Little did anyone expect that two-thirds of those sitting in the church that day would not be alive one year later.

    Year of Wonders is a fascinating look at what happens to this group of people who have made the decision to cut themselves off from the rest of the world to await their fate. As more and more people die the painful death that comes with bubonic plague, some find a strength that they never knew they had and others become filled with doubt and all of the worst aspects of human nature. Some turn to self-flagellation in an attempt to appease what they see as a suddenly wrathful God, some to witch hunts within the village population, and one or two even to devil worship. Soon it is up to Anna, and Michael and Elinor Mompellion to provide the care and comfort that makes it possible for the village to live up to the pledge that it made to protects its neighbors.

    Geraldine Brooks fills the Plague Village with very real human beings who, in barely twelve months, display all the best and all the worst that human beings have in their nature. The people she describes in Year of Wonders are no different than the people you might run into the next time that you find yourself in the middle of some natural disaster that temporarily cuts your area off from the rest of the country. Sadly, some things never change.
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  • Absolutely incredible.
    I rarely ever give a book five stars, as I feel that means it nears perfection, but this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's certainly the best book I've read in the past couple of years.

    Even though the protagonist is living in a completely different time and place, I felt as though I knew her. The character development is INCREDIBLE. I also am rarely ever moved to tears while reading, but this one tore me up in more than one spot. I found myself re-reading certain sections just to hear the words again, and I re-read them aloud. It's gorgeous writing. I'm glad I bought this one, instead of getting it from the library, because it's a keeper. I plan on re-reading it soon....more info
  • "Year of Wonders" is Wonder-ful
    "Year of Wonders" is an incredible novel. Geraldine Brooks manages, somehow, to gracefully intertwine incredible scholarship, thoughtful philosophy, compelling characters, and an engaging plot into a unified whole. The quality of Brooks's research and of her writing style makes it difficult to conceive that this is fiction. Anna Frith is an intelligent, believable, compassionate narrator, and it is her perspective that makes the novel come to life. The effects Brooks imagines of such a catastrophe on a village are entirely believable.

    My only desire is that Brooks would have had a different ending to her epilogue. Yes, it is necessary that Anna should find a new direction and meaning to her life, but the path that Brooks creates for her is highly unlikely and improbable and ruins the artistic unity of the novel. Otherwise, in my perspective, the book is almost flawless....more info
  • Beautifully Written...To Be Savored
    This was a beautifully written book and is a novel to be savored.

    In the year 1666, the plague has infected an English village where Anna Frith lives. She tells us of the deaths of so many; her neighbors, friends and family and how the loss affects the survivors.

    Under the guidance of their minister the villagers agree to quarantine themselves within the village. During the course of the illness their faith and sanity is tested many times beyond the point of breaking.

    I loved the female protagonists of Anna Frith and Elinor Mompellion. Elinor seems to know no limits and does anything to help those in need. She secures the assistance of her servant Anna in her undertakings and Anna is forced to face her fears as she assists her mistress in ministering to the sick and dying.

    A really wonderful novel about the tests of one's beliefs and abilities.
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  • Plagued by the ending.
    A story of the plague and how it affects a small English village in 1666. The main character is a widow who ministers to a man boarding with her who succumbs to the disease. Eventually so do her two young sons and many others in her village. Most of the book is an easily read and well-thought and well-written tale. The protagonist and the reader learn much about the disease and its affect on human nature. The last two chapters of the book seemed to be hijacked by a schizoid writer who veered so far off course the story ended on another continent. Maybe Brooks decided to use reverse psychology - if she ruined the ending of her book, Hollywood were change it to what she wanted all along. The book is based on actual stories from a village and its inhabitants who survived the plague. ...more info
  • so much wrong
    There is so much wrong with this book that one has to wonder if any able editor at the publisher bothered to read it. First of all, the first person narration by Anna, a peasant and servant, absolutely does not work; I mean she's illiterate for [most] of the book and yet her flowery language and observations are astute and modern. Unconvincing. Second, the author brings in so many characters that one loses track of who is who and eventually many just become names, undeveloped. Third, too much of men bad, women good. Dad is a caricature of the nastiest of fathers, Anna is saintly as is Elinor - ugh. Anna and Elinor can do anything and take care of everybody - one wants to scream. Fourth, the author doesn't really have much of a story to tell - what exactly is the conflict? The book is mostly about people dying either by the plague or some other unpleasant way but one never gets the sense of what the issue is - there is no clear climax or resolution as far as I can see because the ending is so ridiculous and disconnected with the rest of the book. Very disappointing!...more info
  • Deep disappointment
    Several friends recommended this novel, so I read it. I was impressed by the extent of Brooks's research and the apparent authenticity of the setting. But I found the novel shockingly trashy. Not only is it over-written in a flowery, gushing style, but Brooks threw in an excess of grotesque, sadistic and gratuitiously violent events beyond her graphic descriptions of plague sufferings. You name it, it's in there, from witch lynching to a near-crucifixion, to madness, to abortion by hot poker, to child abuse, to countless other horrors. Then, the ending trumps every soap opera imaginable.
    Yuck....more info
  • Fascianting...and so different to what I expected
    A fascinating book, wonderfully written, that was completely different to anything I expected. Hard and harsh, yet at the same time full of hope and joy, however hidden these may be by the struggles the plague brings to an English village. ...more info
    I read this book as a member of a book club in our Park. I was chosen to lead a discussion group after reading it. There were about 15 members of our Reading Club, and the reviews were unanimous, in that everyone enjoyed the book, which is an unusual occurrence in our Group.
    The comments which were given by the group are shared by me. I felt that the book personalized a true historical event...the Plague which ravaged Europe in the 1600's. It explained how this could have happened, and how it managed to kill so many people, and it described the fear and horror that the people felt, and the fact that they had no ways of battling or curing the people who were struck by the disease. The other thing that struck most of us was the way in which the heroine showed such a strength and courage in the ways she was able to help and lead so many others and was able to give them some of her strength. She was indeed a very strong personality, especially given her station in life, and the times in which she lived. The only criticisms that some of the people had were with the ending of the book...that it was too abrupt, and in some cases, not really believable. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone, especially someone interested in history. I thought the author brought her characters to life, and personalized the event, so that I was able to imagine what it must have been like to have lived through those times. It made me realize how very lucky we are to have the treatments and drugs we now have in this modern age to battle diseases which were formerly responsible for the deaths of so many hundreds and thousands of people. Her description of the few herbal treatments they did acquire which helped in some small way gave me the idea that these were probably the precoursors of some of the herbal treatments we now have....more info
  • Interesting characters, unlikely ending
    Geraldine Brooks' novel, Year of Wonders, offers a compelling story of considerable hardships, trials, and experience of human nature under extreme circumstances. There were several strengths to the novel and a few flaws that in my mind kept the novel from obtaining 5 stars.

    One considerable strength to the novel is the development of the character of Anna Frith, one of the most level-headed female characters in English literature since Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. We see the world through this woman of high intelligence and astute observational ability. Brooks develops a cast of characters that is broad and compelling. Even though there are multiple characters of all classes and dispositions, the reader seems to be able to visualize them and keep them straight.

    There are however a few weaknesses to the novel that keep it from getting a 5 out of 5 score. One of these is that there often too many heroic actions on the part of Anna Frith, making her seem unrealistic at times. I am certain this aspect of the novel may make Anna a highly compelling and likable character for many readers, but too much heroism becomes suspect. For example, Anna and another woman put on men's clothes and mine ore so a poor orphan girl doesn't lose her inheritance. Having never been in the mines, they obtain a full day's worth of ore and use a highly dangerous method of mining with no experience with explosives. Unfortunately the ending is also highly unlikely and is actually the most unsatisfactory portion of the novel.

    I remained entertained throughout the novel but I reached several points in the book where I became frustrated with the heroine engaging in too many deeds that were unrealistic and which bordered on fantasy.
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  • NON-Historical Hollywood ending book - a sales job if ever there was
    The author pairs up actual historical facts with unbelievable historical fiction to create a Hollywood book if there ever was. A country cleric with a library ??? ...more info
  • A good dramatic read
    The year is 1665 CE. A traveling tailor named George Viccars finds himself in a small Derbyshire village located in central England. Unknown to him and the village that takes him in, his residence being with a widower named Anna Frith who has two sons, he is carrying the plague. After his death, his goods spread and with them the deadly plague. The town vicar, Michael Mompellion, and his wife Elinor convince the people of the village to contain themselves within their walls in order to keep from spreading the plague to the rest of England. As the author states, this story is based on an actual event that happened in a village aptly known as Plague Village. Though the village people could very well flee and perhaps outrun the disease, they (for the most part) remain in their village to wait out the disease. Convinced that this plague is a trial sent by God, the people come together even as some of them fall apart. Innocent herbal women are beaten as witches, men and women seek to repent with violent means of self-mortification, and anger runs rampant. In the face of oblivion, moral codes and personal virtues are abandoned for pleasure and destructive behavior makes it all the easier for people to forget. The people of the village struggle with each other, their personal connections, and their connection to God. Eventually, they begin to question the nature of their suffering and God's ultimate plan.

    This story is how people manage. It is about how people stay strong and how they break down.

    Personally, I liked the story. I think anyone who has read my previous reviews knows how I feel about accuracy in historical fiction: while I enjoy critiquing historical fiction for accuracy, I also don't expect it. I'm realistic and perhaps overly forgiving in that I accept details must be altered or exaggerated for understanding or dramatic effect. After all, we don't want fiction to read as a tedious textbook! Attentions have to be grabbed, held, and kept until the end.

    Did this book that? Yes and no. Sometimes I felt the story dragging on and on. For the first few chapters, I read very slowly. Eventually, though, as the story moved on, I found it becoming more interesting. About the middle to nearly the end, I couldn't put the book down.

    Nearly the end.

    I found myself wondering if Anna were superwoman for all she had managed to do in that time between the plague coming and finally disappearing. She was a simple peasant and servant, yet she could interpret Latin, create herbal remedies, ride a horse like a man, act as a midwife and deliver a breech baby, set a fire to mine iron even though she herself stated that she'd never even seen the inside of a mine... yes, the woman can and does do everything. Even those things well above her station as a servant. I think it was the excessive nature of her talents that started to annoy me and grate on my nerves. If not for Anna's shows of occasional modesty that seemed sincere, she would have been a Mary Sue. After a while, I began to wonder if Anna was going to start to sparkle and cure the plague with her tears. When she began yelling at her former masters and acting well out of her station, I had to wonder if Brookes was paying any attention to realistic social boundaries of the time. Again, this might not have annoyed me had I not grown weary of Anna's super talents. Though I say annoyed above, I mean it in a very amused way. I don't get angry about books, at least not often. I just found myself shaking my head and snorting at certain parts of the books. And why would a rich Muslim doctor marry a widowed infidel from England?

    There's also much romance to be had. Okay, there is supposed to be romance. Up until Anna and the vicar Mompellion connected eyes over a shave towards the end of the book, there was absolutely no chemistry between them. Yet all of a sudden the two of them were copulating on the floor in a manner totally unlike an Anglican man of God and a modest, holy servant. The romance between them came completely out of nowhere. I guess I should have seen it coming when throughout the book Brookes dedicated countless lines of adjectives and praise for things like the commanding boom of the Mompellion's voice, or his strong arms, or his dominating nature. I thought it a bit odd that he was being described in `romance book terms,' yet there was absolutely no personal intimate chemistry between him and Anna.

    And I am still disappointed in the turn Mompellion's character made towards the end. It was so completely out of his character that I had trouble accepting it. Twists are one thing, but making a character into something opposite with no hints to his true nature is just out of the blue and confusing.

    I know that I sound overly critical, but book readers know that a book can be flawed while still being a very great story. I liked the morbidity of the story; witnessing the breakdown of the people in this town as they battled adversity and death was fascinating. It was unreal to me to submit myself to death in the way the town people did. I had to commend the bravery of Brooke's characters, even as I condemned them for their actions in other regards. Yet, it was understandable how they behaved under certain circumstances. When faced with death, who knows what one would do or how to cope? And yes, Anna had her moments, but I found her a very likeable character.

    This book was like sociology and morbid psychology in action.

    Year of Wonders is actually a very good book. It is a good and interesting read. You will read the book and find yourself captivated by much. I didn't grow bored with what I read, even as I snorted in mirth. If you like historically based novels with a lot of drama and a fair mixture of people going absolutely crazy, you'll really enjoy this one. I did....more info
  • Beautifully written historical fiction
    "The Year of Wonders" tells the story of a small village in the 1600s afflicted by the plague. The villagers are convinced by their charismatic rector, Michael Mompellion, to isolate themselves in the hopes of keeping the plague from spreading outside of their community. The book is written through the first-person viewpoint of Anna Frith, a young widow who sometimes works for the rector and his wife, Eleanor. Although unschooled, Anna is bright, brave, and compassionate. As the plague affects more and more people, Anna works closely with Eleanor, both in nursing those that are ill and in trying to prevent the spread of the disease to others. While the plague brings out the worst in some people, in Anna it brings out an extraordinary capacity to grow and change; she becomes capable of accomplishing things she would never have thought possible.

    Anna's relationship to Michael and Eleanor Mompellion is an important part of the novel. Anna greatly admires both Eleanor and Michael, but at the same time she is somewhat jealous of their love for each other. She sees their marriage as a perfect union, while she is all alone in the world. Anna will discover that Michael and Eleanor's relationship is much more complex than it appears.

    Geraldine Brooks uses some archaic vocabulary in the story, which adds to the authentic feel to the book. To me, "The Year of Wonders" is definitely one of those novels where you really feel transported to another place and time. "The Year of Wonders" is well-written, thoroughly engaging historical fiction.
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  • Woman against Nature......Woman Wins!
    This book was loaned to me by a friend who thought I'd appreciate this powerful story of a young wife and mother who has no choice but to take charge and step outside the domestic boundaries of her life in a small English village, slowly and insidiously being invaded by the black plague. This story is grounded in fact as the village does exist today and historical records confirm that it was quarantined as a plague village, where provisions were left outside the village boundaries to keep the villagers from starving and the plague contained. This book really is about boundaries, physical, social, moral and personal. Ultimately it is a story of empowerment and triumph.
    Many historians credit the massive loss of life and devastation caused by the plague in Europe with the breakdown of the rigid social class structure,the rise of a sense of self determination in the lower classes and the first chink in the armor of the Church. People wandered the countryside in bands, flogging themselves and calling out to God to take pity upon them, believing it was brought upon them as a punishment for their sins. Wealth, power, social standing or a spotless soul could not protect them from the plague. The great leveler.
    As they watched their innocent children die, their faith died as well and they looked for those who lived at the fringes of society as possible causes of the plague, believing they were either an abomination to God or in league with the devil. The physically deformed, the mentally ill and Jews were tortured and burned as were women who had supplied their neighbors with herbal remedies, delivered the village babies and been the only source of medical help many had ever known. Such was the case in this small village and at enormous risk to herself the heroine in this story takes matters of life and death into her own hands as she watches those around her,including her small children die an excruciating death from the plague. She enters into a deep friendship and collaboration with a very wise woman,the wife of the village cleric, and together they breach the accepted boundaries of religious, social and medical practice of their day. Again at great peril, as they work feverishly to break the grip of the plague in their village. We're also reminded in a twist in this story that we often make assumptions about those we believe we know so well, and that a public facade can hide great private pain.
    In the end, the plague left unspeakable agony and chaos behind, but also the opportunity for a renaissance for the survivors. The complete breakdown of all of society's barriers, as happened throughout Europe in the time of the plague,liberated those left alive and changed the world profoundly. Our heroine is no exception and the ending is very satisfying if a little implausible. This is why I gave it four stars. Nevertheless, a very good read by a very talented writer! ...more info
  • A rare find
    I am an avid reader of historical fiction and have always had a facination with the plauge. It is hard to find novels on this subject. The Year of Wonders is exactly what I was looking for. A piece of history in a story I can read easily and enjoy. It is based on the true story of a small town in England during the plauge outbreak of 1666 that choose to quarteen itself so as to not spread the plauge to other towns. Although the ending was not exactly what I expected, it is a riviting story of human frailty, deep rooted ignorance, friendship and faith. ...more info
  • Year of Wonders
    Product in excellent shape and was shipped faster than I had expected. Great service!...more info
  • One of the best reads evr!!!
    I just this moment finished reading Year of Wonder. Anytime I find myself talking to the pages as if they would me in reply I know it's a great read. I was elated to get to the end as the ending was not at all what I expected. As a matter of fact I scarcely imagined Anna & Michael's rendezvous, though I hoped for it once Elinor was gone.

    The story is fluid & engaging & it drew me in like a friend confessing a her truth to me in confidence. I am glad that I generally choose what I read based on the way the cover looks. Year of Wonder like the painting on the cover is a sensual, full-bodied tale chocked full of historical references & language (including idioms that I had to research)that made the story most believable. I was swept into the story & enjoyed it immensely. I plan to add this to my own library so that I may read it again.

    I highly recommend the book to anyone - man or woman, who has a taste for brilliant literary storytelling.
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  • Unforgettable work -- hard to believe it's really fiction
    'Year of Wonders' is a fantastically well-written novel based on the real English village of Eyam, where fictional residents chose to seal themselves off from the rest of the country in an effort to quell the spread of the plague in 1665. As conditions in the town worsen and the residents begin to die overnight and in mass numbers, resident and widow Anna Frith must help the Mompellions cope with the disasterous effects of disease, fear, religious zeal and murder. While the book was far more graphic than I expected, I was very affected by it -- it's not a novel you'll soon forget. I found myself doing a lot of research on the Plague and English history after finishing Brooks' fine work. ...more info
  • Distant
    I'm writing this as a reader who went out and immediately grabbed "Year of Wonders" after reading and enjoying "March."

    No doubt a ton of research went into "Year of Wonders" but I would caution potential readers with the fact that Anna Frith, the main narrator, is just too perfect. And this gives the book a strange quality. Anna tends the sick, she manages as a teenage widow and mother, she is dutiful, forthright, and everywhere. At the end, she is tending to the mental (and then physical) well-being of her employer, a vicar. The plague is all around her and she refers to her sadness but we never feel it. The voice is distant, disaffected. It's reflective. It's the old "and then something incredible happened" kind of thing. The incidents throughout the book feel set up to show us how much Brooks learned about the period--whether it's about alternative medicine of the period, flagellation, or bits about commerce and farming. There's no tension. Okay, there's very little. Anna never so much as coughs or has a bad health day. She seems to rise above the action, to float above it even as others around to depths of misery and despair. The last wrinkle, the bizarre turn of events with Michael Mompellion, felt tacked-on; the relationship between Mompellion and Anna only surfaces as a point of potential interest and conflict after the plague cloud has started to lift.

    Definitely worth reading if you are a fan of historical fiction. Brooks has a terrific eye for detail and creating a compelling backdrop. The main action just never seemed to rise and take off.
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