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Year of Wonders [Paperback]

Geraldine Brooks
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2008

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘March’ and ‘People of the Book’.

A young woman’s struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village.

In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection.

So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction.

Geraldine Brooks’s novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestilence. ‘Year of Wonders’ is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England’s last great plague.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (1 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184115458X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841154589
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geraldine Brooks was born and raised in Australia. After moving to the USA she worked for eleven years on the Wall Street Journal, covering stories from some of the world's most troubled areas, including Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East. Her first novels 'A Year of Wonders' and 'March have become international bestsellers, the latter earning Brooks the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She lives with her husband and son in rural Virginia and is currently a fellow at Harvard University.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 the hope of outrunning the plague or do they stay? The lord of the manor and his family pack and leave. The rector, Michael Mompellion, argues forcefully that the villagers should stay put, isolate themselves from neighbouring 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, a young widow called Anna Frith, is one of the few who succeeds. Together with Mompellion and his wife Elinor, she tends the dying and battles to prevent her fellow villagers from descending into drink, violence and superstition. All is complicated by the intense, unacknowledgeable feelings she develops for both the rector and his wife. Year of Wonderssometimes seems anachronistic as historical fiction. Anna and Mompellion can 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


‘One of the best novels I’ve ever clapped eyes on’ Jenni Murray, Woman’s Hour

‘Geraldine Brooks’s impressive 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’

‘Geraldine Brooks's ‘Year of Wonders’ is a wonder indeed. 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’

'More than a mountain of corpses, more than a sensual evocation of the Sapphic bond between two women, more than a pulse-quickening tale, ‘Year of Wonders’ is a staggering fictional debut.' Guardian

‘’Year of Wonders’ carries absolute conviction as an evocation of place and mood. It has a vivid imaginative truth, and is beautifully written.’ Hilary Mantel

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Oh, yes, the Devil has been here this night!" 29 Sep 2003
Set in the Derbyshire countryside in 1666, THE YEAR OF WONDERS details the accounts of a small village ravaged by the Plague. Told exclusively from the first-person account of Anna Firth, a young hardworking widow and mother of two young children, who is employed in the residence of Michael Mompellion, the rector, and his wife, Elinor. After the Plague was incidentally transported to the village inside a bolt of fabric the disease spreads fast and eventually kills one third of the population of the village. The village voluntarily quarantines themselves from any outside contact in a hope to contain the infection. During these desperate months Anna takes it upon herself to help ease the pain of others. In her efforts she forges a strong friendship with Elinor while learning and studying natural remedies and therapies. Helping others aids her in helping ease the pain of her own loss to the Plague.
THE YEAR OF WONDERS is not a typical work of historical fiction. According to the book's Afterword this story was inspired by the true story of the villagers of Eyam, Derbyshire and their own historical account of the Plague. While hiking through the English countryside Geraldine Brooks encountered a finger post pointing the way to the 'Plague Village'. Months of painful research concluded in the writing of this book, and a recreation of how a village struggled against a deadly disease while trying to maintain social order. While Brooks took some liberties in the development of the plot, but some aspects are rooted in truth including several true identities and names. The title of the book reflects worldly events and the strong belief that God works in mysterious ways.
I only wish that Brooks included more social and historical background to the events that were simply alluded to.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free book becomes treasured prize 9 July 2007
By Kat
Oh alright, I'll admit it: I got this free with The Times. As such I didn't expect much at all, given that life-changing reads tend to come on the ends of friends' arms or hidden in bookshops etc etc. Year of Wonders absolutely blew my socks off.

Brooks's writing plunges you straight into the fears, smells and surroundings of this village and its terrible encounter with the plague, while keeping you hanging onto the characters and their beautifully-developed problems and lives. A devastating sting in the tale seals a superb book off brilliantly.

Grab it for your holiday this summer - you'll race through it and can have the satisfaction of looking a cut above the pink bonkbuster readers too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmmm. Mixed views but it is worth reading. 2 Nov 2011
This was recommended to me by a colleague, and I read it from cover to cover last night. I have very mixed feelings about this book!

I enjoyed the majority of the descriptive writing and the subject matter - I am fascinated by diseases such as the Plague and their symptoms and ultimately awful conclusion. The research on the illness itself, plus the medical "science" of the time was very well done and well conveyed in the book as she described the plague year that the village endured - although I felt she could have done a lot more in terms of the atmosphere in the village. At some points the writing felt quite wooden and superficial with no real shivery-horror feeling that should have been there. "Whoops, another death, oh dear, what a shame." I also at some points wasn't sure what timescale we were working in - how long had the tailor been there before the plague arrived? Why was there apparently such a long gap between the tailor's death and then the first deaths of the villagers, especially with such a virulent disease?

I liked the idea of the book being narrated by one central character - Anna. However, I found it almost impossible to believe she would speak and act as she did, given the period of time the book is set in, the deprivation the villagers would have endured (even more so when the quarantined was effected) and the fact that she was ultimately from a (very) poor mining family. Her manner and way of speaking would have much more suited to a wealthy family. Also in terms of ability I found it really hard to believe that she would have been able to turn her hand to so many different things (including lead mining!).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Year of Living Dangerously" 30 May 2006
If you are interested in how the villge of Eyam survived the Plague in the 17th century, then you will love this book."Montaillou" it isn't, but it does succeed in putting a national disaster into a human context. A little too many suppurating boils and purple prose for my liking, but on the whole a gripping read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book But Crazy Ending 5 Aug 2006
By vivsy
I think this novel is faithful to the true story of the Eyam plague which broke out in 1665 and is an example of human strength in times of extreme adversity.

The book centres around Anna, a young woman who escapes infection. She is one of the central figures, helping to nurse the afflicted and trying to continue village life insofar as that was possible. The tale follows her throughout the plague year and examines her relationship with the various villagers.

You do get a real sense of what it must have been like to live amidst the devastation and the practical difficulties they faced. I was horrified at the descriptions of the disease and how it took hold so savagely.

The only part that spoiled to book for me was the ending. After a very readable and convincing tale it suddenly became farcical and unbelievable. It's as if a completely different person took over writing the ending, with disastrous results. Still a very enjoyable read though.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Very well researched and written and an interesting read but difficult to engage emotionally with the characters.
Published 15 days ago by Amazonian
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 18 days ago by Hannibal
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
So glad I came across this wonderful book, now I will get another Geraldine Brooks book and see if I like it as much.
Published 1 month ago by Alena
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by pma
5.0 out of 5 stars Geraldin Brooks
Anything she writes is excellent. Highly recommended and a very educational book, as well as a good read I read all her books.
Published 2 months ago by valerie
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book!
This is a great read! It was interesting, heart-breaking, cheering and hopeful all rolled into one. A tragic story certainly, but it's written with real people in mind and well... Read more
Published 2 months ago by I. F. Windsor
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully written story of hope
A beautifully written account of adversity through tragedy. Believable characters and well researched historical backdrop to a story of forgiveness and hope.
Published 3 months ago by Karen Woolley
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Loved this book - great sense of atmosphere. You could really sense the desperation of te characters. Gripping story extremely well told - I couldn't put it down.
Published 4 months ago by Flinty
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Sensitively written. Heart wrenching. Couldn't put it down. This book is both interesting and informative and I would recommend it to everyone.
Published 4 months ago by hedda
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book
I accidentally found this book while looking for something else, but having been to Eyam I thought it looked interesting. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Staying sane
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