Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks – Book Review [TSS]

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks, sees Anna Frith, a young mother and housemaid in a small village, grapple with the ideas of religion, scripture and the strength of her own faith when an outbreak of the plague cripples the community in which she was born and raised.  As the village and its inhabitants undergo a transformation precipitated by the fear, grief and betrayal that the plague brings as its handmaidens, Anna faces her own demons as she takes on the unexpected  role  of healer and the even bigger task of defining who she is in the midst of staggering losses.

I was looking for something to read that would fall into alignment with all of the other great books I have read this month, and I was reminded this was on my shelf when I saw Meg mention it on write meg!. At this point I have read two of Brooks’ other novels (March and People of the Book) and I have found this first one to be most impressive, if only because I was engaged immediately with the character of Anna, and very much enjoyed the depiction of life in England in 1665, when plague was ravaging the country.  Brooks excels at grounding history in her stories in very natural and appealing ways.  That this was her first fiction outing proves to be a harbinger of the great talent she owns for creating marvelously compelling historical fiction.

This is a thoughtful novel and read, and one that was impossible to race through.  I found this to be one of the novels whose words and images I savored.  Anna is a character who is forthright and honest in who she is and the superficial ways that she initially approaches her faith.  At first she is proud enough to be one in her town of mostly illiterate farmers and miners to know how to read, but eventually her circumstances, the town’s decision regarding the plague, and further contemplation of the knowledge she holds leads her to different conclusions and further from anything she had ever before considered.

The juxtaposition between Anna’s burgeoning faith contrasted with the lost faith of her pastor and employer unfolds slowly and in satisfying ways throughout the novel, along with the exploration of superstition, witchcraft, and the ideas and application of guilt and punishment.  The operations of the town and amazing unfolding events prompted endless speculation on my part about the choices made by the characters, and where my own inclinations would have led.  Brooks’ complex working of the material made it easy to be simultaneously understanding of, fascinated by, and disappointed with some of the decisions and behaviors in which people were engaged.

Highly Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: Write MegAt Home With BooksFizzy ThoughtsSerendipityLesley’s Book NookMedieval BookwormAge 30+…A Lifetime of Books

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29 Comments

  1. Lovely review, Nicole. I liked Anna a lot and loved the first two thirds of the book, but the ending kind of lost me :\ But I’ll save my rambling for when I review it sometime next week 😛

  2. I agree with Ana, that was a great review. This isn’t my “go-to” genre but that is my own fault. I need to make it a priority some day. Great character, great time period.

  3. I purchased both People of the Book and March – but have yet to make the time to read them. Based on your review, this is obviously an author that I will appreciate.

  4. I loved this one, too…except for the very end. I still can’t get over it. But I still think this is a much more interesting and engaging book than People of the Book.

  5. Some way or another, this one has worked it’s way to the top of one of my stacks of books and I’ve been wanting to pick it up, having enjoyed March and People of the Book. The next time I pass that pile of books, you’ve given me the permission to pick it up and treat myself!

  6. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed this! I enjoyed a lot about this book, and I totally agree that it was engaging right from the start. But I do kind of agree with Nymeth about the ending. I think Brooks just doesn’t do endings well because People of the Book fell apart for me at the end, too.

  7. We did this one in my book group a couple of years ago. It went over well, except for the ending. I didn’t mind it, but many were annoyed. LOL

    Geraldine Brooks is the only author that we have sampled 3 times in our group. We’ve liked all of them (YEAR OF WONDERS, MARCH, and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK).

  8. I read this one awhile ago before I began blogging and I remember being swept up into the world that Brooks’ created. Sadly though I only vaguely remember details and can’t for the life of me remember the ending so I might just have to go look for some more reviews. I’m curious 🙂 This is definitely an author that I need to read more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one and for reminding me about it!

  9. I read People of the Book and Year of Wonders and am needing to read March by Geraldine Brooks as well — I love her writing and I feel that she puts so much thought and emotion into a story. Year of Wonders was one of my favorites, and I’m so glad to hear that you liked it as well — it truly blew me away.

  10. I’ve never read any Geraldine Brooks, although I’ve heard of her. I now at least might consider her…maybe next year after I get through my own Mt. TBR. 🙂 Your description of the book, though, definitely intrigued me.

  11. I have been wanting to read books by this author for a long long time. The book i am reading right now, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry is a similar book. I can’t race through it…. And I am taking my time and enjoying it as well.

    Great review!

  12. Oh gosh, I was supposed to read this for Amy’s Newsweek challenge last year! I loved March and have an interest in the plague. I own the book in print, audio, AND eBook. I must get to it. I must find the time.

  13. I really enjoyed this one too. I have read this and People of the Book, both of which made Brooks a favorite author. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

  14. Love this book! I actually thought of grabbing a copy of this one from the clearance bin this weekend. It’s definitely a keeper and I’ve gone years without a copy of my own.

  15. Here’s yet another one that I’ve had on my shelves for awhile at home and have yet to read. I think I need to stop going to the library and read off my shelves for awhile!