Year of Wonders
By: Geraldine Brooks
Genre: Historical Fiction,
Rating: 3.5 stars
In 1666 a little town outside of London finds itself dealing with the Plague. Anna Firth finds herself without a family and becoming the healer and helper to those around her. As the year, and death toll, progress she is the voice of reason which tries to keep her village from losing absolutely everything.
I would like to say, that had it not been for the last 20 or so pages this would have deserved 5 stars. It is written beautifully, all of the characters are well developed and there is a vivid recreation of humanity as a whole which is typically hard to capture.
Brooks did a marvelous job in showing how the human condition can sink when faced with extreme difficulty. The research which was put into it, not only into the plague itself but also into how different people dealt with it and the many challenges the village as a whole faced was marvelous to read. The novel was both of historical and psychological dealings which is what made it so well done.
Seeing how different families dealt with the grief of losing everyone, some turning to alcohol, others preying on the panic of their fellows, some simply shutting down completely, illustrated a great diversity in humanity which I loved reading about.
Anna too was a character who was real and honest. She didn't come across as this great super-heroine. She was merely a person who was doing her best to get through each day no matter what it had in store for her. There were some episodes which showed how she too suffered from human frailty and wasn't some paragon of virtue and fortitude.
Had it ended with a nice scene at the official end of the plague in the town I would have been not only satisfied but I would have had to buy the book for my permanent collection.
But it didn't. It was all set up to, it could easily have done that...but she just kept on writing. It went south as the writer put in the seemingly mandatory romance which detracted rather than added to the novel. Had that 6 or so pages not been there, this would have been one of the top 5 books I read this year.