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Customer Review

on 29 September 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. This would strengthen the plot and make reading more beneficial. Otherwise, I felt left in the dark when events such as the war with the Dutch were briefly mentioned. A very brief summary was included in the Afterword but it seemed too little too late. Otherwise, Brooks did a good job recreating the events occurring in Eyam during the Plague year of 1666.
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