Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
Hmmmmm. Mixed views but it is worth reading.
on 2 November 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!). That all sounds very negative but I still enjoyed the way in which the book was done, I just felt it could all have been even more believable, especially since it is based on historical facts. I had no real impression that we were actually back in the 17th century; it felt like a much later time-period.
Primarily though the major downside to this book was the absolutely beyond AWFUL ending, as so many other reviewers have pointed out. I felt it was totally out of place and completely spoilt virtually everything which had gone before. I have no idea what the author was thinking when she wrote it and it was totally unbelievable. As someone else had said, the final part (not just the epilogue, but a little before that as well) felt like a totally different person had taken over. An extremely poor and disappointing way to finish what was, on the whole, a well-written book.