Year of Wonders is historical fiction of the highest order--absolutely convincing in its period detail, filled with full-blooded characters who arouse one's deepest empathy, and driven by a story of striking immediacy. In 1665, the north of England remains untouched by the plague that is ravaging London. Then, in a small, close-knit community of lead miners and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth has no way of knowing that the damp fabric carries within its folds the deadly bubonic infection. Confronted with a scourge beyond remedy or understanding, the villagers turn in desperation to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch hunting--to no effect. Finally, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a quarantine that may only deepen the tragedy. Told through the eyes of hard-working, inquisitive Anna Firth, who at age 18 must conten d with the loss of her family and the disintegration of her community, Year of Wonders explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of science and religion to interpret the world on the cusp of the modern era.
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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, Amazon.co.ukFrom the Back Cover:
"Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders is a wonder indeed: a marriage of language and story unlike anything I have ever read. The novel gives the reader a remarkable glimpse into a 17th century horror, but does so with both compassion and exuberance. Read it for the inventiveness of the language alone -- a genuine treat." (Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife and The Last Time They Met)
"Geraldine Brooks' impressive first novel goes well beyond chronicling the devastation of a plague-ridden village. It leaves us with the memory of vivid characters struggling in timeless human ways with the hardships confronting them-and the memory, too, of an elegant and engaging story." Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
"I honestly cannot recall the last time I read a novel as riveting, haunting, and authentically rendered as Year of Wonders. This book is astonishing, a small wonder itself." (Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives and Trans-Sister Radio)
"Witch-like, Geraldine Brooks transports the reader to a small English village of the 1660s where over half the population is succumbing to the plague. As alive as a Breugel painting, Year of Wondersoffers the vitality and variety of lives strangely like our own--precious and passionate. An unforgettable read, this splendid novel enriches our human memory of both despair and courage."(Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife; or, the Star-Gazer)
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