My goodness, this was a marvelous book! As other reviewers have mentioned, I was hesitant at first to tackle a book about the plague. I was so pleasan...moreMy goodness, this was a marvelous book! As other reviewers have mentioned, I was hesitant at first to tackle a book about the plague. I was so pleasantly surprised upon beginning it, though, that I finished the book in three sittings. Ms. Brooks is a marvelous writer -- her plot and characters are well put together, and the book reads so smoothly it just flies by. I found myself telling others about Year of Wonders, and thinking about it here and there long after I finished. I find that the mark of a good book is how many times it makes me think back and reflect on it, and Year of Wonders is right up there with Captain Corelli's Mandolin in that regard.
I won't recount the plot yet again, as amazon and other reviewers have done that admirably, but I will throw a few more compliments Ms. Brooks' way. She does not shy away from the visceral -- the novel feels solid and real, even if sometimes the subject matter turns to somewhat gruesome things. As always with a good historical novel (also see The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman and A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss), the read is educational as well as entertaining. I even learned the origin of the phrase "still wet behind the ears," though apparently my coworkers were not as excited as I was about the news when I passed it on. In any case, I recommend Year of Wonders very highly -- it has wonderfully unique characters, an interesting plot, and is a surprisingly easy though dense read. (less)
I've recently embarked on a historical novel kick -- a satisfying read with the added bonus of learning a little chunk of history, what could be bette...moreI've recently embarked on a historical novel kick -- a satisfying read with the added bonus of learning a little chunk of history, what could be better? I came across Sheri Holman's novel on the "paperback favorites" table when I was browsing in a local bookstore. It looked intriguing, so I thought that I'd give it a try. The book is about a 19th century cholera epidemic in an English town, and features Gustine, a poor girl with a very ill child who works as a potter's assistant by day and a prostitute by night -- she is provided with a fancy blue dress to attract higher-end clientele (hence the title). Also featured is Henry Chivers, a young doctor who is trying to escape a grisly past. It's really the secondary characters that make the book though -- Eye, the old woman who follows Gustine around to make sure she doesn't abscond with the dress; Pink, the daughter of Gustine's conspiracy-theory crazed landlord who is desperate for a little love; and Mike, the landlord's prize ferret, treasured above all, and much above Pink.
The novel is not a cheery one; death lurks around every corner and loathsome characters abound. Even each of the main characters is deeply flawed in some way, and the reader is left without anyone to truly cheer for. Dr. Chivers, especially, is hardly the hero the reader might have initially expected him to be. Holman employs an interesting technique to tidily wrap up the plot, leaving open the possibility that it doesn't get tidily wrapped up. She is a gifted writer; the novel is darkly humorous at times, and very well researched. Also recommended is A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss.(less)
A historical novel is a wonderful way to learn about the past, and A Conspiracy of Paper most certainly fits that bill. David Liss did a great job of...moreA historical novel is a wonderful way to learn about the past, and A Conspiracy of Paper most certainly fits that bill. David Liss did a great job of not letting plot suffer so he could develop historical detail, or vice versa. All of the characters were very well developed, and the plot moved along quickly with surprises around many a corner. I found the relationships between the characters to be real and interesting, and learned so many quirky little details from reading this novel -- about boxing, the beginnings of the stock market, even the origins of the phrase "to double cross someone." I've seen many comparisons to Caleb Carr, and I suppose that they make sense -- chances are that if you enjoyed The Alienist or The Angel of Darkness, you'll like A Conspiracy of Paper. An informative and enjoyable read -- it will be difficult to put the book down until you know who Mr. Rochester is! (less)
I read this book for the Vaginal Fantasy bookclub. It wasn't particularly offensive in any way besides its overall weaksauce blandness. Ms. Raybourn i...moreI read this book for the Vaginal Fantasy bookclub. It wasn't particularly offensive in any way besides its overall weaksauce blandness. Ms. Raybourn is a good writer, but none of the elements which might cause someone to pick up the book were particularly well-realized. As a historical novel it's nothing special, the "mystery" was very simplistic and easily solved early in the book, and the romance was paper-dry and chaste.(less)