I picked this straight up after having read People of the Book also by Brooks and having loved it. I then read Year of Wonders in a day as I couldn't...moreI picked this straight up after having read People of the Book also by Brooks and having loved it. I then read Year of Wonders in a day as I couldn't put it down, and was all set to give it 5 stars until the epilogue (more on that later).
This book is based on the true story of the village of Eyam in Derbyshire in 1665 when the Plague arrived in a trunk of fabric sent from London. The Village of 300 or so people took an oath with their Parish Priest not to leave the village, therefore containing the disease and potentially saving thousands of lives. Of the 300 or so villagers in Eyam, within one year over 200 of them were dead. For more than a year, nobody came in and nobody went out. They were left food and supplies in a hole in the wall of the boundary stone up on the hills by kind people from the surrounding villages. The story is told by Anna Frith, an 18 year old widow, who loses her 2 tiny boys to the plague and then goes on to comfort and help other villlgers through this horrible year as their loved ones too succumb to Plague.
Although some of the characters were real people (George Viccars was the tailor who recived the box of fabric and was the first person in the village to die), and Anna's neighbour Mary Hadfield who lost her husband and 3 children also existed. Other characters have been based on real people, for example Brooks' Priest Michael Monpellion was based on the real Vicar William Mompesson but she changed his name as she also changed his character.
Having been to Eyam several times (you can still visit the Plague cottages there) I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it brought to life a time that seems so beyond our comprehension. However, much as I loved it the ending almost sopilt it for me. I don't want to ruin it so I won't say what happens but I found it slightly silly in that it just didn't seem to fit the story at all.
All in all though, a great story of endurance, love and hope in a truly terrible time in history which is made all the more frightening because it actually happened. I would highly recommed this book and I hope you enjoy as much as I did. (less)
What a fascinating book this was. I expected to read about the true story of one of the most shocking crimes in 19th century England but I hadn't barg...moreWhat a fascinating book this was. I expected to read about the true story of one of the most shocking crimes in 19th century England but I hadn't bargained for also getting a fantastically written and hugely interesting social commentary of Victorian times and attitudes and behaviours with regards to the emergence of Police Detectives in this country.
Mr Whicher, the Detective called in to this particular case, was one of the first ever Scotland Yard Detectives which came with its own share of suspicion and mistrust. The case in question was of the murder of a 3 year old boy, one of several children of a well-to-do family in a country house in Wiltshire. In June 1860, the young boy was found to be missing from his cot in the morning and later that day his body was discovered (with his throat slit and a stab wound to his chest) down the servants toilet outside in the grounds. It soon became apparant that the purportrator was one of the people inside the house on that night (which consisted of the boys family, the nursemaid and housemaid). Whicher was called in to find out which one of the family murdered the three year old while the whole of England became obsessed with the drama, writing into the newspapers in their thousands offering their opinion on who committed the crime.
While I found the unravelling of this story fascinating in itself, I was also delighted to see so many references to some great Victorian authors inclduing Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. 1860 was also the year that the first victorian "sensational" novel was published and this appeared to feed the frenzy of the public. This particular case has also been reported to have been the basis for subsequent rather famous novels such as Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood , Collins' The Moonstone and Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret all of which contain themes from this particular story. Dickens (who was also an aquaintance of Mr Whicher) even wrote letters to Collins offering his theory on what took place that night.
This book is completely non-ficiton to point that only recorded conversations and facts are included (which seems to be the reason there are alot of negative reviews about it - perhaps it seemed too dry for some). And while this is more of a why-dunnit than a who-dunnit , there are still a few surprises along the way that caught me off-guard.
I thoroughtly enjoyed this book; infact I could barely put it down. Summerscale stuck to the facts without trying to sensationalise the story any more than it already was by putting words in peoples mouths and the result was a hugely enjoyable novel about a shocking crime and its repercussions in Victorian society. Highly recommended.(less)
I am head over heels in love with this book. Only a terrific author can write about something as appalling as war and occupation and uneccesary death...moreI am head over heels in love with this book. Only a terrific author can write about something as appalling as war and occupation and uneccesary death but yet make you feel so alive and carefree whilste reading it. The prose was as mouthwatering, succulent and juicy as the food in the book and I wanted to be there! Yes, I wanted to run down to the Loire and swim and splash and yell and hang upsidedown from trees overhanging the river and race through sun-soaked fields and pick fruit in the orchards. I wanted to sneak off on the back of bike to the nearest village to watch a film in the cinema unbeknown to my mother, I wanted to set traps in the Loire and catch fish and I wanted to go to market on a Thursday morning and sell home-made pastries. And all this under German occupation. Only a talented author can make you feel like that while telling the story of something far more sinister.
This is a book about an old woman who comes back to the village of her childhood, but can't allow the villagers to find out who she really is. Aged nine Framboise and her family has to make a hasty exit from Les Laveuses and now she can't allow them to know the truth of who she really is and also what really happnened back in 1942. The book is as sumptuous as it is teasing with bits of information that allows the reader to peice all the fragments together over the course of the story and lead us to the final catastrophic moments.
I adored this book; it was ripe, tangy and a feast for the senses. I want to read it all over again. But if not, it has made me hungry and now I need to go and raid the fridge.........(less)
This is a really well written, clear and concise account of Henry VIII's six wives. I actually used it as a companion to [Book: The Autobiography of H...moreThis is a really well written, clear and concise account of Henry VIII's six wives. I actually used it as a companion to [Book: The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool Will Somers] just incase I lost my way with who's who.
With it being non-fiction I found it easy to dip in and out of and Weir clearly know her stuff. I never once felt either out of my depth or partonised (which can piss me off badly) and Weir always gives unbiased information. I partiularly liked the introduction which gave the reader an overview of many of the customs of the Tudor period, including the marriage bed ritual for newly-weds. Apparantly the man and woman (or girl and boy as they mainly were in thoses days) were udressed by their families and then they had to climb into bed together for the first time while all thier family and friends stood around watching. Then they would be left alone for a few hours before having the sheets checked for signs of nookie. Can you imagine the humiliation????? Your Dad standing over you while you hop into bed with your man for the first time. Mortification!
Great book. A must for anyone wanting background on those 6 famous ladies.(less)
Wow! I loved this! It was like watching a series of Shameless but with posh people. Greed, bad mothers, bad fathers, plotting, bitching, murdering...moreWow! I loved this! It was like watching a series of Shameless but with posh people. Greed, bad mothers, bad fathers, plotting, bitching, murdering, affairs, rape......phew! Really, you couldn't make this stuff up!
Seriously though, this is such a well written account of Lady Jane Grey, the young 16 year old Queen of England who only ruled for 9 days. It starts at her birth (to a mother who would have been carted off by social services today) and follows her throughout her 16 years by her own account and by accounts of those closest to her. Poor girl! She really was just a pawn in her parents greedy plans and ultimately met her death because of it. Lady Jane Grey was a complete surprise to me too: she was wilfull, feisty, somewhat precocious and very pious. For a girl to speak her mind so much in those days must have been incredibly difficult but speak it she does. The other big surprise for me was Queen Mary who was kind and compassionate in a way that I never knew.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - my first Weir. Never a dull moment, it rips along making you unwilling to put it down. An amazing period in history has been brought vibrantly to life. Stunningly good read!(less)