Monday, January 20, 2014

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is an amazing book and one that I definitely will reread.  I think that there will be much more to gather upon a second reading.  I have been a fan of Ms. Brooks' writing over the years, and this book is my favorite.  I think she did an amazing job researching and telling this true tale of Eyam, a town outside of London, that was infected by the plague in 1666 and how the town chose to deal with it. 

The story is told by fictional Anna Frith, a widow and mother of two boys, who became a healer and housekeeper for the local vicar and his wife.  Through Anna, the story unfolded over the year as the town suffered through devastating decisions and losses. 

"Little Edward Cooper was dead before sunset.  His brother, Jonathan, lay ill a day later, and Alexander Hadfield but two days after that.  At the end of a sennight, Mary Hadfield was widow for a second time in her life, and her two sons lay in the churchyard beside their dead father.  I was not there to see them buried, for by then I had mourning of my own to do.

My Tom died as babies do, gently and without complaint.  Because they have been such a little time with us, they seem to hold to life but weakly.  I used to wonder if it was so because the memory of Heaven still lived within them, so that in leaving here they do not fear death as we do, who no longer know with certainty where it is our spirits go.  This, I thought, must be the kindness that God does for them and for us, since He gives so many infants such a little while to bide with us."

 As the plague gained momentum in the village, the young vicar presented an enormous challenge to the  people of the quarantine the village so that the disease would not spread further.  Those who didn't want to agree to that were free to leave the village before the quarantine began.  The quarantine meant no outsiders could come to the village, and no one from the village could leave.  Supplies that were normally obtained from nearby villages and towns would be dropped off at a site where there would be no contact with each other. 

As one review said: "This is a tale of devastation, grief, and madness..."  It was also a tale of great love for others, sacrifice and honor.

Before the year's end, two thirds of the village had died to the plague.

Beautifully written, Year of Wonders is indeed that.

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