Monday, June 15, 2009

Year of Wonders - book review

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is based on a historic event: a plague that spreads in a small English village in 1666, and the decision of the townspeople to quarantine themselves from the rest of society. In the first place, historical fiction is a favorite of mine, and I have an affinity for novels placed in England. I haven't read much about the 17th century before, so this was a treat in that sense.

There were many layers to the story. The most striking thing I found was Brooks’ use of language. At first I thought it was just British phases that I wasn’t familiar with, but as the tale unfolds, Old English terms come into play. The verbiage gives authenticity to the story, told by Anna, a young housemaid, who works with the local minister and his wife, trying to nurse people through these difficult times.

The character development is superb. Most of the townspeople are miners and their families. Anna’s husband, Sam, dies in a mining accident before this story begins. She does tell us of a conversation she has with one of his friend, Jonas Howe, who is eager to teach her sons about the mining trade. "Though I thanked him for his promise, I was not sincere when I did so, for I firmly hoped not to see them in that rodent life, gnawing at rock, fearing flood and fire and crushing fall.” Anna becomes a midwife in the village, and befriends a family of “witches.” She grows both intellectually and spiritually, an inspiring outcome to all her suffering.

It is a fascinating story, with many surprises along the way. A word to the weary: if you have a weak stomach, Brooks’ descriptive writing may be too much to handle.


MagdaleneJewels said...

As an avid book reader, I always look forward to your reviews. My favorite books are either historical or historical fiction. So I am definitely looking forward to reading this one. Have your read any of Jhumpara Lahiri's books? They are always about Bengali families who come to this country and try to assimilate with our country and customs. Her last book won "Book of the Year".

Rose Works Jewelry said...

That looks like a great book!

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