Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ARCHIVED REVIEW: Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague (5/4/10)

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague
By Geraldine Brooks

Wow, that was fast.

This is one of the best books I have yet read. The novel is based on a true story of a town in England who became plague-infested and chose to quarantine themselves, rather than spread the disease to other towns. It is truly a Year of Wonders, as the town witnesses biblical "wonders" like the plague and the horrific effects of the terror and hopelessness it spreads, and the more modern idea of wonders, the celebration of life, and and how many of the villagers swallow fear and achieve things they never thought possible. It is a story of transformation, of the town, of the rector and of the servant Anna, our protagonist.

This story was incredibly rich and meaty. There are so many admirable people, like Elinor, the rector's wife, who despite her frailty has a will of iron, and does what must be done. The young quixotic rector Michael Mompellion whose journey from the fire of God's love to the depths of despair is like that of the Beast or Mr. Rochester. And of course, Anna, the servant girl from an abusive family who loses everything and finds herself.

My heart was immersed in the story every step of the way. Geraldine Brooks finds a way to mix true events, local legends, breathtaking symbolic "stage pictures" (as a director would call them) and the pain and joy of being utterly human with the skill of a true artist.

I'm still riding on the high of this book, if you cannot tell. I will warn you, the ending is a surprise, and many have felt jarred by it. I was as well, but after the initial incident, I was able to ride it out to a believable and satisfactory conclusion. But trust me, the book is worth any discomfort you may feel at that moment.

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