Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: Year Of Wonders: A Novel Of The Plague – Geraldine Brooks

Year Of Wonders: A Novel Of The Plague – Geraldine Brooks

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."

Review: A story set in a town where people are dying from the plague? Yes, please.

It’s 1666 in a small English village. A widowed housemaid, Anna Frith, invites a boarder into her home to help pay the rent. She does not know that the boarder carries some infected clothing with him. Soon, people in the village start dying. The leaders make the decision to quarantine the town, so no one can get in or out. As the population dwindles, Anna is forced into roles she never expected to fill. She becomes a midwife, a doctor, an assistant to the preacher, a gardener, a medical researcher, and a friend to high-society people. Anna learns that she’s stronger than she ever thought she could be.

This book starts out brilliantly. Then it goes downhill. I have feelings about this.

“Despair is a cavern beneath our feet and we teeter on its very brink.” – Year of Wonders

I like that the novel is based on a true story. An astounding amount of research must have gone into this book. Fact and fiction are mostly blended seamlessly. The majority of the story is believable. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to sit in a quarantined village and wait to see if you’re going to die. Understandably, the characters panic. Superstition runs rampant through the town, and people turn against each other because of it. This story shows how selfless and selfish people can be. Some people will sacrifice themselves to save their friends. Other people will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

The suspense is intense. Everyone in the village has been exposed to the plague. The reader just has to wait around and hope that their favorite doesn’t die.

As a narrator, Anna is bland for my tastes, but I was still rooting for her. I wanted her and her friends to make it out alive. One of the best parts of the book is the relationship between Anna and Elinor and Michael Mompellion. It shows how difficult situations can bring people from different social classes together. Nature doesn’t discriminate. If we want to survive a disease, we can’t discriminate, either. Everyone has a better chance of survival if we take care of each other.

“I borrowed his brightness and used it to see my way, and then gradually, from the habit of looking at the world as he illuminated it, the light in my own mind rekindled.” – Year of Wonders

Here’s where the problems start: I raced through the first half of this book, but then got bogged down in the second half. There are some hokey plot twists. Anna develops romantic feelings for Michael Mompellion, and everything gets melodramatic. The epilogue left me going, What? That’s a bit . . . random. The ending might have been too fast? A lot of stuff happens very quickly, and none of it is developed enough for me to believe it. The characters suddenly become different people. I don’t get it. The second half of the book is clumsy. What happened? After loving the first part of the novel, the ending threw me off.

I guess my feelings for this one can be summed up with “Meh”? I know that’s rude, but I’m confused. I was totally into this story, and then it changed. In a way, this novel seems like two different books. One of them I loved, and one I didn’t.

“I fear the line between myself and madness is as fine these days as a cobweb, and I have seen what it means when a soul crosses over into that dim and wretched place.” – Year of Wonders


  1. This sounds like an interesting read (and sounds like you enjoyed it on one level). I think the Black Plague was in the 14th Century, not the 17th. I'm not sure of the name of that plague.

  2. What a shame you didn't like it in the end. I liked it, though it was a long time ago that I read it!

    1. I really liked the beginning. The end just seemed . . . random.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Too bad this one fell apart in the end. The idea behind the book sounds really interesting. Disappointing that it didn't end as well as it started.

  4. Oh no....Now I'm confused! I've had this book on my TBR list for years (I know, that bad) and still want to read it. But now I don't know.... Maybe I should just read the first half....