Year Of Wonders

July 20, 2008 at 12:08 am (Books) (, , , )

I recently finished rereading Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks.  This is one of my all time favourite books, by an author who’s work I enjoy every time.  Obviously I love this book.  Except for the epilogue that it’s.  I find it completely incongruous with the rest of the book.  Every time I reread this book I declare that I’m going to stop before the epilogue.  I never actually do though, and always end up annoyed that I didn’t stop.

I came across this book in my final year of highschool.  I was doing an English project, whire I had to compare two novels, and I had chosen courage as my topic.  When I saw the subject of this book I realized it was perfect.  Year of Wonders is a piece of historical fiction about a small English town in the 1600s which is afflicted by plague.  The town voluntarily quarantines itself, a decision that is unheard of at the time.

Despite the subject matter, I never find this book to be sad.  It isn’t exactly the most uplifting story, but at the same time it is very touching.  The main character is a young woman who loses both of her children to the plague, and the tragedies pile on from there.   But this story isn’t really about the deaths, it’s about those who survive.  I think that’s why I find that the title fits.  it seems a really odd choice at first, how can a year when two thirds of a town’s population dies be considered a year of wonders.

But if you think about it from the population of those townspeople it was the year that god called on them to do something extra.  They sacrificed themselves to protect those around them.  That’s really pretty inspirational, especially in a world where most people considered the plague a punishment.  And I think that’s why I love this book so much.  It’s a beautiful, well written, touching story about a doomed little town, who manage to become heros.

Which is not to say that it’s a boring preachy book.  Lots of stuff happens, and there are oodles of characters to hate, despise and pity to varying degrees.  There are the greedy ones, the stupid ones, and the generally misguided ones.  And then there is the plague itself.  Brook’s doesn’t skim over the horror of the disease.  Its presence dominates the book all the way through.  As the subtitle says, this is “A Novel of the Plague.”

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