First Released: 2001
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “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.'”
Comments and Critiques: I read this as part of my Random Reading Challenge. I have to say that I was not disappointed. Ms. Brooks does a masterful job of presenting what it was like to live in 1660s England both with and without the plague. Her descriptions left me with clear pictures of the hardships endured just to sustain a living as well as combat a mysterious infectious disease in a time where so little was known about infection. I found myself wanting to read more about the plague and England to understand a bit more just what life was like, how people coped, and so forth. Given the furor over the H1N1 virus and the potential catastrophe that the new school year could bring, I felt the timeliness of this book was not to be ignored as well.
Anna is a tremendous heroine, both advanced in knowledge for her time but also in her ideas about life. She does not hesitate to point out her own flaws and continually strives to think best of others, which is always refreshing in this day and age of sarcasm and narcissism. More importantly, she grows from a meek widow to an extremely strong survivor, to the point where she no longer defers to others to make her own decisions. Her growth is a joy to behold in this mostly stark novel.
One weekly meme this week asked us to name our most recent serious book we’ve read, and I know some people mentioned Year of Wonders as a serious book. Even though I was almost finished with the novel when that question was asked, I personally never considered it in that category, primarily because of the fact that in spite of its subject matter, this book is really about hope: hope that life will get better, that your loved ones will survive the plague, that you will find love and happiness again, that you will live to see the next morning. Throughout the novel, Anna, and consequently the reader, never loses hope. Without hope, this book definitely would be serious and depressing. With hope, it turns into so much more.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. There was enough suspense that kept me turning the pages and kept me intrigued through the end. The ending itself was quite the surprise – one I definitely did not see coming. I would recommend this to others, especially those who enjoy historical fiction and can get over some of the horrors of the plague or just life in the 1600s.