It is the year 1666 – the plague year – and a small isolated village is infected by a bolt of cloth carried from London. Housemaid Anna Frith and her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice, to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. But as death reaches into every household, they turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting. Inspired by a true story and told with unforgettable characters and thorough research, Brooks examines a collision of faith, science and superstition.
Our first book for the year, aptly named Year of Wonders, had us all agreeing that this is a good tale, well told, and includes everything (and everyone) that makes a successful novel. We all agreed that the steps taken by the villagers were courageous, but the presence of superstition and fervent religious beliefs made for a realistic portrait of the times. We all felt the inequality of the social system and had a good discussion on how it worked and whether it was still in place today.
A few of us mentioned that we thought this was probably the best of Brooks’ novels, finding her others disappointing, and lacking substance compared to Wonders. The only criticisms we could really come up with was the novel’s closing stages. Anna’s unusual actions had us all wondering how likely a woman of her time would be to execute such a conclusion.
Many of us have read other novels and books relating to the plague and concede that the history and issues pertaining to the disease makes for interesting and compelling reading. Thankfully this is what Year of Wonders delivered and we recommend it with a big healthy tick!