Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Favorite Reads: Year of Wonders

Alyce from At Home With Books writes the meme My Favorite Reads that features a review of a book read pre-blog. Since my blog is so new, I decided to join this one.

 My pick for this week is:

Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
"When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing 'an inspiring heroine' (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read."

Even though I don't usually read historical fiction, this one peaked my interest. I had no idea that the village of Eyam actually existed when I read it, but the idea of a village instituting a self-imposed quarantine seemed both plausible and intelligent. Watching the village through the eyes of Anna was a bit like the morbid attraction of a massive car crash. In addition, I knew so little about the Black Plague that I thought this would give me an imaginative recounting of living during such a tragic time in history.
I found the opening to the book to be confusing and seemingly irrelevant to the main plot - only at the end is the opening scene explained, but the complete scenario still seems disconnected from main plot and an added tool to simply move the main plot along by giving Anna a way to leave the village. At the same time, the faith and endurance that some of the characters exhibit is both profound and inspiring. I don't know that I could have had the same courage to face almost inevitable death as these characters did, or even with the same attitude of complete acceptance that Anna displays.

Memorable Quotes:

"Like the ore that must be melted all to liquid to find the pure metal, so must we be rendered in the fiery furnace of this disease. As as the smith tends his furnace, all through the night if need be, to secure the valuable ore within, so is God here, near to us, nearer, perhaps thean He has ever come, or ever will come, in all our lives."

"Good yield does not come without suffering, it does not come without struggle, and toil, and yes, loss."

"And so, as generally happens, those who have most give least, and those with less somehow make shrift to share."

"How do we tumble down a hill? A foot placed incautiously on an unsteady rock or loosened turf, an ankle twisted or a knee buckled, and of a sudden we are gone, our body lost to our own control until we find ourselves sprawled in indignity at the bottom. So it seems apt indeed to speak of the Fall. For sin, too, must always start with but a single misstep, and suddenly we are hurtling toward some uncertain stopping point. All that is sure in the descent is that we will arrie sullied and bruised and unable to regain our former place without hard effort."
I found an interesting interview of Geraldine Brooks about the book here.

Could you have the courage to quarantine yourself  such as these villagers did?


Alyce said...

I'm not sure if I would have that kind of courage. I think most of us probably would never know until we're actually in the situation.

I have heard wonderful things about this book, and am excited that my book club is going to be reading it next month.

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