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A Journal of the Plague Year

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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  5,131 ratings  ·  489 reviews
In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, claiming nearly 100,000 lives. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Defoe vividly chronicles the progress of the epidemic. We follow his fictional narrator through a city transformed-the streets and alleyways deserted, the houses of death with crosses daubed on their doors, the dead-carts on their way to the pits-and encounter the hor ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1722)
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Bill Kerwin
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it

Because writing is an expression of human character, what is true of one's character is true of one's writing as well. A person's strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin—the sympathetic character is often permissive, the assertive unreasonable, the ardent rash—and the same thing can be said of an author's beauties and his faults. A brief study of Daniel Defoe's book on the London plague of 1665-1666 illustrates this principle.

Perhaps the most impressive thing ab
...more
Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
In the crowded , unhealthy, unclean, foul, pest dominated, filthy city of London, the Bubonic Plague breaks out, in 1665, no surprise, it has occurred before, in fact just a few years, previously, but this escalates, felling some say, 100,000 people, who never rise again. Daniel Defoe, the inventor of the English language novel (Robinson Crusoe, 1719), yet because of his earlier employment, was more a journalist than a novelist, writes a memoir of this catastrophe, almost sixty years later. The ...more
MJ Nicholls
In 1664, Borif De Pfeffel Jonffon was the Mayor of London. He was widely popular with his flowing blonde wig and extravagant ruff. Having invented the highly successful sport of peacock wiff-waff, where live cocks were thwacked across a bronze table with scimitars, then skinned and served whole to the victors, his electoral success was secured. In spite of his various mistresses, several of them chambermaids and lower-ranking countesses, his re-election the following year seemed certain. He prom ...more
F.R.
Aug 26, 2010 rated it liked it
One of the problems with reviewing the earliest authors of fiction is that they were writing at a time before the rules had been properly worked out. Novels took on the form we know and love because of these writer’s successes and because of their failures. It was up to them to forge the templates, and if a certain template didn’t work then they could try a new one with the next book.

‘A Journal of the Plague year’ is a case in point. Although Defoe was alive at the time of plague, this
...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #62: A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), by Daniel Defoe

The story in a nutshell:
Although not actually written until sixty years later (but more on/>The/>The
...more
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was the most Serge Gainsbourg's preferred book.
Daniel defoe is not a only-one-book man (Robinson Crusoe).
It is an aesthete book which one exchanges the name between friends.
What is extraordinary, it is the realism of story. All descriptions are extraordinary. They agree elsewhere with what was described. As of the appearance of the signs, death occurred in a few hours.
The plague is well known since the Middle Ages as an apocalyps. René Girard in "the scapegoat" says that pe
...more
Amelia
Jan 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF’d at chapter 11
Jojo
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
"A journal of the plague year" is actually a fictional account covering this time in history, and although Defoe was alive, we are given a narrator instead, and this was written near enough sixty years afterwards. We are certainly not told much about this narrator, apart from the fact he has family and servants, and we get a brief description of where he lives, but that is about it. I think due to this lack of character description, I was unable to completely empathise with him, and I also notic ...more
Alan
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I taught this a couple times (Soph Eng Lit survey), instead of Moll or Robinson (or, indeed, Pamela or pt of Tristram). Of course it's a historical reconstruction: Defoe was 5 in the Plague Year, a year before the Great Fire, and two before the Dutch sailed to Chatham, on the Bay of Thames, and captured the Royal Charles, its transom still featured in Rijksmuseum.
I think those semesters AIDS featured in news. (Also useful for teaching Freshman Oedipus R, which begins in citywide mortality--to
...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
I have seen this taught as a non-fiction account of the Great Plague of 1666; it isn't.

What it actually is: a very early historical novel. (Defoe was alive, but was a small child, in 1666.) There's no reason why it shouldn't be taught in a history class (as it has the virtue of being short, among other things), but an eye-witness non-fiction account it isn't.

I guess that's credit to Defoe's ability as a novelist.
Rachel

This is one of the stranger conglomerations I have ever encountered under the name, “novel.” We’ve got a 1722 fictionalized memoir of London’s 1665 bubonic plague epidemic, how-to-survive-plagues advice and 17th-century public health info, and, my favorite part, philosophical speculation about the outbreak’s causes. It’s pretty safe to say that Defoe has an agenda in this book beyond telling tragic, bubo-filled plague stories, though he tells them very movingly indeed.

Like other pre-19th-centur
...more
Alp Turgut
1665 yılında Londra’da yaşanmış olan veba salgınını tüm gerçekçiliğiyle okuyucuya sunan "Veba Yılı Günlüğü / A Journal of the Plague Year", Daniel Defoe’nun bulduğu günlükleri bir araya getirerek ortaya çıkardığı edebi açıdan olabildiğince akıcı ve etkileyici bir eser. Hastalığı kapan insanların acıdan Thames nehrine atlamasına kadar yaşadığı tüm korkunç olayları okuma şansı bulduğumuz kitapta binlerce kişinin öldüğü veba salgınlarının insanların üzerindeki etkisine bir kere daha tanıklık ediyorsunuz. ...more
J.G. Keely
Aug 04, 2007 rated it it was ok
And so it was that the plague came into London, by the mercy of God, and I thought I would remain in the city despite the plague, for since God made it, I could not escape it if he meant me to perish from it, viz. when that brick fell off the chimney and onto my foot, which I was loathe to move, for since God sent the brick, it would do me no good to move my foot and so avoid his will.

But I would say the best way to avoid the plague and to survive would be to leave the city, as many
...more
Anca
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10, summer-2009
Historical fiction about the plague of London in 1665. Defoe was just a 5 year old child when it happened but documented about it in exhaustive details so it will sound like a real life journal. It is first person narrative but it does not focus on the person of H.F, a saddler that stayed to protect his business (presumed to be based on Defoe's uncle, Henry Foe that lived through it), but on general means.
There are many details about parishes affected, official decisions, the frauds deceiv
...more
Kim
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, telling the story of the Great Plague in London in the year 1665. The book was first published in March 1722, 57 years after the event. A Journal of the Plague Year is an account, a "journal", of one man's experiences in the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London. The book is told mostly in the order things happened, as far as I can tell anyway, though there are no chapters, it's just all one big story, which come to th ...more
Bruce
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a fictionalized account, through the eyes and voice of the narrator, H.R., of the last great Plague in London, in 1665. Defoe published it in 1722. Using charts and graphs from the time of the plague, Defoe adds to his account’s verisimilitude. “H.R.” may be a reference to his uncle who lived in the city at the time of the plague and kept a record of events that were occurring. This novel is one of the best accounts of the temper of the times and complements the journal kept by Samuel Pe ...more
Genia Lukin
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I understand that this is a book written before the conventions of a "novel" or a "memoir" or any other thing of that sort actually existed. So when Defoe was writing this book, he was just... well, writing. Because of that, the basic structure of the book contains only two set points; one - the plague begins; two - the plague ends.

Between these points chaos reigns supreme. Stories are written together and connected in an entirely associative manner, stories trail off and reappear se
...more
gabrielle
Feb 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to gabrielle by: Lil
(Another one from the _Peeps_ list.)  Written in the early 1700s; a first-person narrative of the London plague of 1665.  The account is incredibly detailed, although its accuracy has been called into question lately.  There's no longer any way to verify Defoe's statistics because the church records (tracking burials etc) were lost in the Great Fire.  I LOVE PLAGUE STORIES.  Doom!  Death! Destruction!  I think it would be really cool to set up a "living history" tour of London & visit the lo ...more
Fatma
redundant, boring; boring, redundant.

(did I mention BORING?)
Andrea
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: london
This is grim but strangely gripping, almost in spite of its author. First I had to try and remember that this is so early, among the earliest of the many claims of earliest novels -- that's hard enough. Written decades after the events it is describing, it's still quetsioned how much of it is based on Daniel Defoe's uncle's diary (he himself was 5 at the time he describes in such detail), how much is historical research, how much is 'novel'. It's strangely removed yet at the same time close enou ...more
Kilian Metcalf
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think this must be the ur-text for all futuristic dystopian post-apocalyptic novels. I thought it was non-fiction until I learned more about Daniel Defoe. He was five when the plague struck London in 1665, and his book was published in 1722. That makes it technically historical fiction. Much of the book is based on the experiences of Defoe's uncle. Early critics were also unclear how to classify it. Some considered it nonfiction, with Defoe as the editor of his uncle's memoirs. Some put it def ...more
Libros Prestados
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Mi videoreseña: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNCr0...

Me ha encantado y no me sorprende la buena fama que tiene.

Es un relato fascinante e inmersivo que va dibujando el horror de lo que viene siendo una pandemia (la epidemia de peste que asoló londres en 1665) mediante la opinión de un supuesto testigo de los acontecimientos y decenas de pequeñas anécdotas que van conformando la narración. Es increible la capacidad de Defoe de hacerte creer que él estuvo allí, cuando es todo un producto de su imaginación, nutrido
...more
Bettie
Not for the faint hearted as this was solid text on a gruelling subject. Seeing as this was written some decades after the events I wonder why the great fire was not mentioned - maybe the answer lies in the fact that DeFoe and his contempories did not know that the fire cleansed the area. *shrug* What do you think?
Ruthie Jones
I readily admit that it can be quite difficult to tease out the remarkable stories that lurk within these older works. The authors of yore (Defoe included) are often long winded and repetitious. If you have patience and fortitude, you will be rewarded!

While A Journal of the Plague Year is a work of fiction (Defoe was only 5 years old in 1665), it does present an historical account of a truly horrific year in London's history, made even more horrific when the fire of 1666 swept throug
...more
Charles
Daniel Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year' is a curious piece of fiction. It is both a historical account, with an emphasis on the veracity of all the details, and an imaginative reconstruction of the 'Plague Year' (1665).

Although Defoe himself was only five years old when the plague spread across London in 1665, and he was probably evacuated as well, the 'Journal' was written like a sort of historical memorial, meant to be read by posterity as a 'survival guide' in the eventuality of anothe
...more
Shelli
Although Defoe was only 6 at the time of the events of the book (the Black Death devastating London), it was written as if it were a first person account. However, with the exception of only a couple of segments that could actually be considered "narrative", the entire book was pretty much just a compilation of actuarial tables detailing the weekly number of casualties by parish. And yep, that's just as boring as it sounds.
Rick Skwiot
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to 20th century medical and public health advances, we now know how to prevent, stem, and treat most infectious diseases. Though a few folks may still recall the flu epidemic of 1918, which cost 20 millions lives worldwide and a half million in the United States alone, for most of us living outside the Third World, fear of epidemic has become largely a thing of the past.

But if you wish to glimpse daily life under the threat of impending death by disease (without actually being
...more
City of London Libraries
This time we had a proper City of London focus to our discussion, Daniel Defoe’s 1722 re-imagining of the 1665 Great Plague of London, A Journal of the plague year. 57 years after the event, Defoe, who was five years old when the bubonic plague struck, impersonates a sadler who endures the ordeal and has him use contemporary accounts and statistics to give as factual an account as possible of the horrors inflicted on the population.

That the book turned out to be fiction surprised Ror
...more
Catalin Negru
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Target audience: common people, anyone who wants to find information about the plague, the beliefs and the lifestyle of the Londoners of the year 1666.

About the author: Daniel Defoe was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is noted for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Samuel Richardson, and is among the founders of the English novel. He was a prolific and versatile writer, producing1666.
About
...more
Jane
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot has been written about this fictional reads-like-an-eyewitness-account story of the 1665 plague, so I'm just going to talk about some random things that struck me. And say that, on the whole, I enjoyed it, although boy oh boy does the narrator ever go on about why the healthy (or apparently healthy) shouldn't have been shut up with the sick. That whole theme could have been reduced to one paragraph.

I loved:
- the casual references to the fact that newspapers and microscope
...more
LobsterQuadrille
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs who aren't afraid of a heavy read
When I started reading A Journal of the Plague Year, it seemed pretty dry and scholarly, but I decided to give it a chance, and surprisingly I actually found it an enjoyable(if slow) book. As something of a history buff, I thought it was interesting to see how the bubonic plague affected the individuals and economy of England centuries ago, and even to see how the English language was written and used back then. The prose became progressively less dry, though it can still be tough to slog through. I ...more
Sacherina
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
I am impressed by this book because of its matter-of-fact approach towards the plague. Defoe manages to write a book about a disasterous disease that basically paused the whole country until it was over withouth becoming emotional. I say that the narrator doesn't become emotional, what emotions are stirred in the reader is a whole different matter.

It is gloomy and depressing as a whole but Defoe manages to occasionally lift the reader's spirits by telling him about the incredible act
...more
Daniela
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
FINALLY DONE!!! Now, you may be wondering why I'm giving this book 4 stars if reading it was as painful as I made it seem, but it's really quite simple: context.
The archaic language was not archaic then and the exceedingly poetic prose was to be expected in a work as old as this, along with all the "praise Him!" and "spare me, God" that are present in every single page of the book. Context.
Getting back to present times, that which makes it a weirdly beautifuly written book has now be
...more
Karen Michele
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I've just finished A Journal of the Plague Year and though it wasn't the greatest reading experience ever, it was interesting to read about the plague through the perspective of the time period. Also, the cross between a real journal and fictional memoir fascinated me. Defoe's work is constructed on facts, but has to be considered fiction because of his unnamed narrator and the fact that Defoe’s real age was 5 at the time of the plague. It read more like a nonfiction book, so I decided to read it wi ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Yep... Defoe's returns continue to diminish. This reminds me of Dostoevsky's 'House of the Dead,' since both books are absolutely riveting for the first 100 pages or so: you get an immediate impression of what it's like to live in a plague-ridden London (or Russian prison); you get drawn in by the odd 'life is stranger than fiction' moment, but then, before you know it, you're reading exactly the same thing two or even three times for no particular reason other than the narrator's inability to r ...more
Samantha
This book is about the last plague in London in 1665. Though it is fiction, it reads like non-fiction . . . . really boring non-fiction. There are lists of numbers of deaths in various parishes (which may not have been nearly so painful to get through if I wasn't listening to this as an audiobook), discussions of fortune tellers exploiting people's fears, and the hopelessness of those not able to leave the city. It is all done in a very cold, detached tone with no personal stories told. There ar ...more
Noah Goats
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This isn't a very novelistic sort of novel. There is no particular narrative drive propelling the story forward. This is a work of fiction that presents itself as a work of non fiction (it sort of reminded me of World War Z on this point), and the result is very readable. This book gives the reader a very good feel for what it would have been like to live through the plague of 1665, and what the people back then thought about this calamity that had taken over their city.
Jed Mayer
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly unique experiment in documentary fiction, which immerses the reader in the midst of a long-distant calamity that reads disturbingly like an apocalyptic prediction. The formlessness and repetitiveness actually add to the sense of verisimilitude, and the juxtaposition of anecdotes, from the pathetic to the absurd, with statistics and tabulations creates a kaleidoscopic, panoramic effect that is is disturbingly mesmerizing.
Ryan
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, ebook
So taken was I with Albert Camus’s “The Plague,” more so upon reflection than during its reading — and perhaps even more so now at the completion of yet another book about Yersinia pestis — that I immediately sought out Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year” as its follow up. At this point I may be a full-blown plague junkie, as I’ve already added John Kelly’s “The Great Mortality” to my reading list, but I digress.

Although nearly 300 years separate the events of Camus’s and Defoe’s
...more
Eugenia
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very embarrassed to admit that I only just realized that this is historical fiction, not a chronicle or journal in real life (I avoided reading it in college because I never chose to read any "non-fiction" in college, so I didn't read this one, because I thought it was a true account). It's extraordinarily well done.
John Doyle
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a first-person account of life in London during the plague of 1665. Filth, vermin, death carts, and fear were pervasive. As in most crises, the poor absorbed a disproportionate share of misery as many wealthy families fled the city to country homes and waited out the storm. But even in the 17th-century earnest civil servants and charitable giving combined to maintain order and availability of necessities through the scourge. As the plague began to lift late in the year the initial r ...more
Jo
May 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Defoe wrote this in the first person, purporting to be someone who lived through the plague of c1665. As some of it was undoubtedly true, this was a very interesting look at what happened during that awful time.
Michael Matejka
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
A perplexing achievement. This is a work of fiction, written in 1722, about the Plague's visitation of London in 1665. Other than the narrator, to whom nothing much happens, no characters are sustained for more than a paragraph or two. There is a flow of particular and general observations about life in London during the plague. Thus there is nothing resembling a central plot, and I'm also not clear if there's any logic to how this book is structured. Just a guy telling you all he can remember a ...more
Kevin
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, history, england
An amazing account of the great plague of 1665 in London. The book made me feel like I was there and watching my friends and neighbors die of the plague.
Red Heaven
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A brilliant second-hand account of the Great Plague of London, with vivid scenes of dread and horror. DeFoe conveys a sense of London as Hell on Earth, with the screams of people shut inside their homes for fear of contagion, the carts full of dead bodies hauled off to the mass grave open pits. He provides a wealth of information on the fierce outbreak's effect on human nature - people escaping quarantine, being distrustful of one another, and fraudsters taking advantage of scared people, sellin ...more
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Around the Year i...: A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe 1 10 May 24, 2019 04:19AM  

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Daniel Defoe (1659/1661 [?] - 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more tha ...more
“But it was impossible to make any impression upon the middling people and the working labouring poor. Their fears were predominant over all their passions, and they threw away their money in a most distracted manner upon those whimsies.” 3 likes
“a near View of Death would soon reconcile Men of good Priciples one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy Scituation in Life, and our putting these Things far from us, that our Breaches are formented, ill Blood continued, Prejudices, Breach of Charity and of Christian Union so much kept and so far carry'd on among us, as it is: Another Plague Year would reconcile all these Differences, a close conversing with Death, or the Diseases that threaten Death, would scum off the Gall from our Tempers, remove the Animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing Eyes, than those which we look'd on Things with before” 3 likes
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