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A Journal of the Plague Year Paperback – 29 May 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (29 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437850
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 48,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Within the texture of Defoe's prose, London becomes a living and suffering being."

"Within the texture of Defoe''s prose, London becomes a living and suffering being." (Peter Ackroyd)



"Within the texture of Defoe's prose, London becomes a living and suffering being." (Peter Ackroyd)

About the Author

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) had a variety of careers including merchant, soldier, secret agent, and political pamphleteer. He wrote economic texts, history, biography, crime, and most famously fiction, including Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders and Roxana. Cynthia Wall is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Virginia.


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The Penguin edition restores Defoe's original punctuation, with a capital for nouns and colons for stops, so the writing has the vitality, weight and elasticity of Defoe's authentic style. I wish Penguin's print was more comfortable to read and blacker.

I first read this book in the early 1970s as a work of fiction because it has been classified as such since the 19th century, and I found the "plot" dull. When I read it again twenty years later I realized why - this book isn't fiction at all, it is a factual account of what happened in London in 1665, based on his uncle Henry Foe's eyewitness experience, which is blended with Defoe's journalistic research after the event. The result is a marvellous work of journalism that has the vividness of an eyewitness account, taking the reader right into the events, and the mastery of Defoe's talent and research of the whole subject. The eyewitness account is turned into a most vivid masterpiece.

If you try to read the Journal of the Plague Year as fiction it will seem dated because it can't satisfy as such. It doesn't have any of the effects that go with fiction such as plot, fantasy, author's whim, or character development. However it is beautifully constructed.

The Journal of the Plague Year is a great work of journalism and is (as far as I know) the most vivid account of any historic event in English. It is great to read and browse in as well.
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Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant history book, written as fiction by Defoe, who was 5-years-old and stayed living in London throughout the Plague of 1665. He wrote this book some years later from his remembrances of things he saw and heard. Placing himself in the character of a young man, we read stories of great sorrow and great hope alike. Giving us a fascinating insight into the nature of varied human responses to tragedy and disaster. So we learn about people who put their own lives on the line going out to work sometimes in the houses of the already infected just to be able to feed and clothe their family, and then we learn about disturbing characters who used the opportunity for their own ill-gotten gains. It's disturbing to learn that young women were still attacked and raped in the streets of London, and houses were still robbed despite having the 'cross' sign of the Plague infection on their doors.
The book doesn't just centre on the streets of London but travels into the surrounding countryside, remember even places like Walthamstow were at the time considered to be outside London, and very much the countryside.
During it's worst months, thousands of people, both infected and not, were attempting an escape to what they thought was the safety of the country, only to be confronted with pitch-fork wielding locals at the village gates telling them to go away in no uncertain terms. But of course even these people succumbed in the end.
This is not a pleasant read, what with Plague pit descriptions, stories of babies suckling the breasts of their long-dead mothers, and in-depth descriptions of the symptoms.
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By A Customer on 27 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
this is my all-time favourite book. the descriptions of the disease are so vital. the book gives a great overview of how life was like back then. being written in an autobiographical style (although the main character is fictional) this book is much better than obviously fictional work on this period. The numerous mentioning of christian religion bothered me at first, but after all that's just part of what life was like back then. there are episodes in this book which I'll never forget, like the mentioning of a man who survived the disease by running around town and swimming across the Thames. An interesting history lesson and, furthermore, a book with very inspiring thoughts on what to make out of life.
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Format: Paperback
As a Londoner I am always interested in the history of my home town. Although fictional, it is much more than a brief glimpse and it gives a good idea of what it must have been like to live in London in these times. I suppose its a bit like the Blitz, where a Londoner has to decide to stay or take flight. Would I have stayed on during the plague? On the basis of this book, certainly not. A really good read especially if you know the City of London or work there. Highly recommended for Londoners.
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