Thursday, December 4, 2014

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a book about the plague, this was surprisingly not depressing! For one thing, the story focuses on the characters, especially the main character, and their development as the year progresses. Since I found the protagonist to be likable and interesting, it helped me get through the harder parts of the book - and there were definitely hard parts!

The book is based on the true events of a village in England which is hit by the plague. They take the extraordinary step of cutting themselves off from all outside contact, so as to not spread the plague to their neighbors. What happens during their year of isolation is not noted in history, so this book attempts to depict their struggles. Some of the events are based on actual history, but others are the author's idea. Even so, the book is so well-researched that it seems like it must have happened that way.

As I said, above, the book is really about the journey of the protagonist, Anna. When we meet her, she is a simple housewife and mother of two boys. Her husband dies of a mining accident before the plague arrives. She takes in a boarder, a tailor, and unwittingly brings the plague into her home and village. Her journey, from illiterate housewife to a literate midwife and herbalist, is extraordinary, but quite plausible.

Many points in the book were horrific, as can be imagined. But the humanity of the characters, especially Anna, made it easier to get through. There is great loss - of life, of faith - but there is much that is gained, as well. Anna learns how strong she is, she learns medicine, she learns that she is a survivor, in every sense of the word.

And, please, dear author - give us a sequel of Anna's life after she leaves the village! We only get a brief summary of her journey and her new life - but I would like a whole book about it!

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