Martin's Must Reads: 'Year of Wonders'

Mar 24, 2020

In 2001, Geraldine Brooks, one of my favorite authors, published her first novel Year of Wonders. She wrote it after coming across an intriguing finger post in England pointing to the Plague Village.

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and Brooks’ book Year of Wonders is an historical novel about the English village, Eyam, during the plague year 1666. The plague arrives in their small village via a bolt of cloth from London.

Desperate to find the cause of the spread of the deadly disease, the local minister convinces the villagers to burn anything that has been touched by the disease and to quarantine their village so as to contain it. This selfless act earned them the name of the Plague Village.

Those who live respond to the tragedy in a variety of ways: some go mad, some take financial advantage of the grieving, some accuse others of witchcraft, some, like the minister, his wife and Anna their maid, work tirelessly to relieve the suffering of the dying. The story is told through the eyes of Anna as she herself suffers loss and finds a strength she didn’t know she had.

The flyleaf quotes Thomas Keneally as saying this book is “an astonishing re-creation of how it felt to be a victim and survivor of the year of wonders and horrors.”

In April of 2019, I reviewed another of Brooks’ novels, The People of the Book, a marvelous story of the owners of an ancient copy of the Haggadah based on stains and small fragments found in it. I’m currently reading her novel March, which gives a back story to the father in Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women.

If you’re looking for unforgettable reads including Year of Wonders about the 1660’s plague, then you must read these novels by Geraldine Brooks.