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on 9 March 2017
Thought it would be a good read. Very disappointed.Although it was based on fact, it was not convincing, characters were rather stereotyped and the ending was very weak.
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on 17 April 2012
Not the best written book, but an easy and compelling read which kept my interest going. Bit of a disappointing ending but overall an enjoyable read.
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on 30 December 2013
In 1666 the small village of Eyam in Derbyshire suddenly faced a terrible fate when a cloth brought from London carried the bubonic plague. As the rest of northern England was still untouched by the plague, the villagers of Eyam, led by a charismatic young priest, bravely decided to isolate themselves in order to prevent the disease from spreading. Their self-imposed quarantine lasted for a year, and as the poor villagers saw one by one, their friends and neighbours dieing, they faced their worst demons, but also found incredible strength and compassion. The story is told by Anna Frith, the priest's eighteen year old servant, who during this year of wonders, lost everything and found the strength to rebuilt her life and evolve from a timid and uneducated girl, to a strong and skilled woman.

The book is excellently written and I really couldn't put it down. The world of 17th century rural England is brilliantly recreated, with amazing descriptions and historical detail. The characters are well developed, realistic, and drawn with a great understanding of their social environment, their religious and political beliefs, and also their superstitions and fears. Although there isn't really any element of suspense in the novel, as it is based on a true story and we know from the beginning that the quarantine was fatal for most of the villagers, the plot is fascinating and gripping.

Even though I did find the novel excellently written, I have mixed feelings about it, as the ending spoiled everything. As I don't want to go into details and reveal the ending, I can only say that it was unexpected, abrupt, truly unrealistic, and canceled all the progress the characters made throughout the novel. It really is a shame, as the book is great up until the last couple of chapters, when all falls apart.
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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.
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on 6 December 2010
I can't decide if I like this book or not.
I thought the general storyline was quite fascinating. But then at the same time, I didn't like the ending. I thought it was slightly too unbelievable.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2011
This was chosen by my book group as our August read and I was really looking forward to it. I love historical fiction and thought this would be right up my street. The book is based aroung a true story involving the village of Eyam, where the villagers sacrificed themselves by shutting off their village from the plague. It is told from the point of view of Anna Frith, a young woman who lives in the village.

Instantly I loved Geraldine Brooks' writing. It made you feel like you were in the room with the characters. This feeling only intensified as the book went along and I felt claustrophobic, as the plague took control of the village.

Anna's character was very likeable and I felt so sorry for her. The tragedies she suffered made it even more remarkable that she devoted her time to helping those that were infected with the plague. There was a clear divide between the 'good' characters and the 'bad' characters but Anna's father just made me feel physically sick. How you could prey on people's misfortune in that way is beyond me.

There were lots of things going on in the book - plague, witchcraft, prostitution, self-punishment, murder - which at times felt really oppressive. I am still undecided whether there was just too much happening or whether this only intensified the story. It did start to get me down at times.

I raced through this story in two days and fully expected to rave about it at my book group meeting...until the ending. The murder of Elinor made me laugh and I am sure this was not the author's intention. It was frankly ridiculous and one step too far for me. It seemed a case of 'what can I throw in now?' Add this into the ending, which I knew would happen, and it's a book I liked rather than loved. It made me really cross as I felt it was such a cliched thing to do.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it, although it's not a read for the faint-hearted. If it had ended twenty pages before it did, it would have been my read of the year. As it stands it's just a good book with a poor ending.
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on 11 February 2016
First 3/4 excellent. Written rather beautifully and central protagonist, Anna a worthy heroine. Last 1/4 went a bit bonkers with Mills and Boon type sex and all sorts of bizarre happenings and I went from being caught up in the story to thinking WTF. Once a book no longer feels so real I forget I'm on my sofa I'm afraid that's it for me. Such was my experience with this book. Did make me curious to actually visit the village though.
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on 27 July 2010
I loved this book right up until the end where it skipped to the present day after the plague with Anna and the minister. At this point, it got a bit too weird for me and there were some moments where I had to reread sections and wonder why they were relevant to the story. So the bizarre ending pulls the rating down a little bit. However, the rest of the book was completely enthralling. I read a similar book about a town that cuts itself off during an epidemic - Thomas Mullen's 'The Last Town on Earth' - and this prompted me to look for books with similar topics. Geraldine Brooks was recommended to me and this book languished on my shelves for ages before I picked it up on a whim. I immediately found myself pulled into the world of 1600s England - which, fortunately, I studied this semester at university - and felt the pain of Anna and her neighbours. This was a truly fascinating book, full of historical insight into the medicines and superstitions of the period - two subjects which I'd not particularly been interested in prior to reading this book but which I found incredibly interesting to learn about. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about late 17th century England, or the growth of medicine, or witchcraft accusations and superstitious belief, or plagues. This book covers a range of topics and is difficult to put down once you've started, even if the storyline is obviously a sad one. My only complaint is the bizarre ending - some aspects of it worked well, and I liked that Anna was given a new life, but the part with the minister really seemed unneeded.
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on 31 December 2009
This is the first time I've read a novel by Geraldine Brooks's. I like reading authors I've never heard of before and always keep an open mind.

This novel is set in Derbyshire and the plague of the 17th Century that's been carried to a little village from the big city of London by a man who's a tailor by trade.

One by one villagers die, people want to leave the village, but one man the rector agrees with them saying they are better of isolating themselves and trying to keep them illness contained as they are putting other peoples lives at risk if they try to run from the plague. The villagers struggle and start to resort to violence and losing themselves in drink.

A young widow called Anna Frith stays and helps the rector and his wife, Anna helps by looking after the dying and their families.

The author takes you on an emotional journey, which in places I found a little upsetting. The novel is well written; it's interesting but be warned, it's very morbid.

It's not a book that everyone will want to read and some readers may even struggle to finish it. If you're interested in history, especially this period then you'll find it interesting and informative. :-)

If your expecting or wanting a light read then this isn't the book for you.
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on 19 April 2013
Years ago my children's school enacted the play Roses of Eyam which made quite an impression on me. Now I've come across this book and read it to see what actually happened. Well, it turned out to be less an historical narrative than a social commentary, and all the better for it.
How does an isolated community, concerned only with its own affairs and with only limited contact with the wider world, react when suddenly cut off totally and forced to face a daily toll of death that challenges the religious beliefs that were taken for granted? I found the very personal portrayal of how people coped, or failed to, quite enthralling and Anna's feelings and reactions seemed very real.
I do agree with other reviewers that the ending did not fit well with the rest of the book; once the plague was over it seemed to rather fall apart, but overall it made a good read.
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