Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

November 13, 2014 Historical Fiction, Plague 16

Bring Out Your Dead, Bookworms!

Monty Python jokes never, ever, ever get old, I tell you! Seriously though, the bubonic plague was NO JOKE. I just finished reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and it was plague-tastic. Y’all know how much I love me some plague, right? That sounds almost as bad as my love affair with “hooker books.” I’m beginning to worry about myself…

yearofwondersIt’s 1666 in a small English mining village. When the plague descends upon the town, the villagers seal themselves off from the outside world in order to prevent the spread of infection. A quarantined village with bubonic plague? Oh you know shiznit got real in a hurry!

We see the events of the plague through the eyes of a young housemaid named Anna Frith. The town’s minister makes valiant attempts to keep the villagers from self destructing, along with the assistance of his wife Elinor and Anna, their servant. With losses felt in every croft and cottage, it’s a herculean task to be sure. As the contagion spreads through the village, Anna witnesses frantic prayers, murderous witch hunts, corruption, and desperation. The best and worst of humanity are on display in stark relief.

I didn’t realize until I’d finished the book that Year of Wonders was based on a true story. The plague did indeed strike a rural town in 17th Century England called Eyam, and the folks of Eyam sacrificed themselves in order to prevent the spread of disease. Two thirds of the village perished. TWO THIRDS. I feel like I should write a thank-you note to antibiotics right about now.

One of my favorite things about Geraldine Brooks is that she never shies away from the super icky gross bits. Imagining people being sick is one thing, but reading about giant lymph node pustules? That rupture? It really brings the icky home. Fans of historical fiction, plague stories, and things that are awesome should definitely check out Year of Wonders

Alright Bookworms. Let’s talk. If your town looked like it was going to be plagued out would you try to run, or would you stay put in the interest of the greater good? (Look at us today with the ethical dilemmas! We’re growing here, I can tell.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll use it to invest in a flu shot or something. Ain’t nobody got time for that.*

16 Responses to “Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks”

  1. Heather @ Capricious Reader

    Wasn’t this such a great, horrible, book??? I read it years ago and loved it. Such great characters. You should read People of the Book by her, if you haven’t yet, Ethel. No plagues, but a sacred book. Also very interesting!

  2. Megan M.

    Ruptured pustules? Ewwwww. Did the children play “Ring Around the Rosie”?

    If it were really an epidemic of the level of Black Plague or influenza then there isn’t anywhere you could go that would truly be safe. Germs are everywhere, it’s kind of their thing. So I think you’d have to stay put and hope you survived. But I always think of “Outbreak” when the tanks are rolling in and the sick mom gives herself up and she can’t even kiss her kids goodbye. Parental sacrifice always gives me the feels.

  3. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    Ewww, just reading your mention of giant lymph node pustules is grossing me out. But this book sounds crazy awesome.

    If my city was hit by a plague, I would probably stock up on food and water and use quarantine as an excuse to hunker down and knit while watching a lot of Gilmore Girls until the plague died out.

    • Words For Worms

      LOL, I love the gross! I have a problem. I’m with you, I’d likely hole up in my house and hunker down. We like to refer to our basement rec room as “the bunker” anyway.

  4. Jancee Wright

    Ha. I want to read this now. If I was in this situation, I would probably flee to the giant country home that I imagine I would have. I also imagine I would be brilliant and would understand the spread of disease and all that. In reality, I would probably just die.

  5. Jennine G.

    Your ability to write such a humorous review of a serious subject book makes me want to read it. I’d love to hear this review read aloud by you! Haha! Seriously, I don’t know what is do…and it’s not so much me, it’s my kids I’d be considering. You will do things when it comes to your kids that you wouldn’t do just for yourself.

  6. Rhian

    I really enjoyed this book though I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. I’m glad you liked it.

    I’d like to think I would stay put for the greater good but I have a feeling that if I thought it was a choice between those I loved and the rest of humanity, I would pick my loved ones.

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