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Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks


Published: 23rd October 2002
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Published: 14th July 2011
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A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the most extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly visited a small Derbyshire village and the villagers, inspired by a charismatic preacher, elected to quarantine themselves to limit the contagion.

In 1666, plague scorched London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection.

So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction.

Geraldine Brooks novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestilence. Year of Wonders is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England's last great plague.

This is a haunting book that comes back to loiter in the mind, as do the questions 'What would I have done? Would I have been so brave?'. Based on the true happenings in the Derbyshire village of Eyam, which in 1666 deliberately closed its boundaries to the rest of the country in the hope of containing the plague within the community, the story is told by Anna, whose husband died in a mine accident, and whose two children succumb to the plague. With neighbours dying all around her Anna becomes a helpmate to the Vicar, Mr Mompellion, the originator of the 'wide green prison' idea, and his fragile wife, Elinor. The two women try to fortify the villagers with herbal potions and give help to those suffering. Suspicion, enmity and accusations of witchcraft are rife as the village folk thrash against their fate in their closed and doomed world. The horrors of tending to the dying and sharing the enormous burden of grief make Anna and Elinor's relationship than normal friendship. But there is more loss for Anna, and when the disease passes over, the village has changed and she has to deal with a new and immediate danger which means she can never feel safe in her home country again. Beautifully written with a real sense for the rhythms of 17th-century speech, the novel evokes great empathy for the characters, and an atmostphere of haunting mystery. Despite all the horrors that occur, the courage displayed by many in the village and the sense of life beginning anew at the end of the book make the title a truly appropriate one. (Kirkus UK)

Geraldine Brooks

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, attending Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. In 1990, with her husband Tony Horwitz, she won the Overseas Press Club Award for best coverage of the Gulf War. The following year they received a citation for excellence for their series, “War and Peace.”  In 2006 she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University.

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her  novels, Caleb’s Crossing and People of the Book, were  New York Times best sellers. Her first novel, Year of Wonders is an an international bestseller, translated into more than 25 languages and currently optioned for a major motion picture starring Andrew Lincoln. She is also the author of the non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire, Foreign Correspondence and The Idea of Home.

Visit Geraldine Brooks's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9781841154589
ISBN-10: 184115458X
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 23rd October 2002
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.0  x 2.1
Weight (kg): 0.23