Book of the Week #40

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (NY: Viking, 2001)
"I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there'd be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stooks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me." (p. 3)

This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the “Plague Village,” tucked in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to the isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes the reader follows the story of the plague year, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love.

Year of Wonders was a New Hampshire nominee for the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. On Saurday, October 9, 2010 Geraldine Brooks will be visiting our state as she will receive the 2010 Sarah Josepha Hale Award at the Newport Opera House at 8pm.

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