Nadine Jones's Reviews > Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
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Jan 23, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: book-club-read, fiction, historical-fiction

** spoiler alert ** Book club pick for February 2012.

The story of a small English village beset by the Black Plague, based on the true story of Plague in the village of Eyam, that Ms Brooks learned of while working as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

Ms Brooks is clearly a gifted writer, but I suspect (and I suggest this gently) that perhaps she should stick to nonfiction. She is quite skilled at blending contemporary language with old terms (one exception: WHISKET. What is with all the whisket whisket whisket???? I wanted to scream! WHY not just use the word "basket"?? anyway ...) Other than that one exception ;-) it was never jarring, never took me out of the story, but, rather, created a very authentic feel of time and place. Her descriptions of places and activities are pitch-perfect. Her ability to draw us into the story is masterful. The pacing of the story is wonderful, we slowly join with Anna Frith as she goes about her day, slowly meet the other villagers and become enmeshed in this story just as she is.

That said ... The PLOT become rather ludicrous in the end. It seemed that once Ms Brooks had to finish the story, and no longer had her notes on Eyam available for the ending, she was at a loss. A ludicrous series of events befall our fine Anna (who at this point has become a bit of a Mary Sue), a series of outlandish events that would feel out of place even in a Harlequin romance. (view spoiler) What happened to pacing? What happened to reality???

In addition, I felt that many of the characters in this book were very two-dimensional. Ms Brooks did a fine job with the main characters, Anna and Elinor and Anna's children, Jamie & Tom, and even Anna's husband Sam. But Anna's father and stepmother were just too evil to be believed. And yes, Anna was a bit too good.

When this was first selected by my book club, I was a bit dismayed: a book about THE PLAGUE?!?!? I was assured that it is not at all depressing, so I bravely plunged in. And at first, no, it is not depressing. But then the Plague arrives; Anna's young children (ages about 3 and under 1 year, I think) are among the first to die. This was heartrending. I cried. I HATE reading books that make me cry. So, while I can readily say that this was interesting and well-written (mostly!), I cannot recommend it.
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