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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks, 2001. * * * * *

When London was stricken by the bubonic plague in the years 1665-1666, the houses of plague victims were sealed and guarded, locking in the well with the ill, allowing no access to food, water or human comfort. It was quite extraordinary then that the small village of Eyam, Derbyshire, encouraged by the young Rector William Mompesson, voluntarily quarantined themselves in their own "wide green prison." Geraldine Brooks, former war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, and bestselling author of March and People of the Book visited Eyam in the 1990s and inspired by the story, crafted this riveting novel. The narrator is 18-year-old Anna Frith, who emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. After a flea-infested bolt of cloth arrives from London, the plague is manifested in Eyam,  and through Anna's eyes we see how 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." This is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history, written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.

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