When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.
©2010 Penguin Audiobooks (P)2010 Geraldine Brooks
I've read print versions of other work by Ms. Brooks. Her writing is beautiful but the characters in this book were one dimensional and didn't develop enough to be interesting. Moreover, the narration would have been better served by a professional reader.
I LOVED this book. I love Geraldine Brooks in general but this was by far my favorite and a must listen. I was sursprised by the few negative comments on the narration, I found it outstanding and perfectly suited to the story. Very, very well done. I was never so disappointed to have an audiobook finish. The story is grim and gruesome, but the detail and perserverance are inspiring. Simply amazing, do not miss this one if you enjoy historical fiction, especially this time period even a little bit.
The book was an interesting tale of a horrific time in history. The characters were well developed and the story was fascinating, which is the only reason I stuck with it. The reader lacked any emotion and at times the words were slurred, making it hard to understand her. I wasn't sure which of us would fall asleep first - the reader or me!
I loved the story but had a tough time with the reader.
I would never recommend not listening; the story is so worth it! I would hope that with enough bad reviews (and revenue) the publisher will re-publish the audio with a talented reader.
I would actually consider listening to the story read by an expert reader.
I loved the intimate look into the life of a woman from this time period. How her social order and religious restrictions, and the rapid collapse of both, did not make her the 2 dimension character we tend to suppose from history books. Anna is has good heart while still being capable of selfishness and crude impulses. Anna is wonderfully human.
Anna was by far my favorite character and the best drawn one as well. Michael and Elinor were more the personification of self-imposed misery hidden by a mask of perfection. Some of the minor characters brilliantly shine for a moment as their time of the stage passes. I would especially call out the Quaker child, Mary and the Pantry Boy, Brand.
Ms. Brook's tempo keep the story moving slower than I would have read and, like a metronome, convened to me a sense of Anna plodding through the year as she struggled to simply place one foot in front of the other. That perseverance and determination seems core to Anna character. To me, that was as important as the accent or the pronunciations.
When I previously read about the books subject, and the fact that it was read by the author, I passed. Then a couple of friends mentioned the author and recommended her works. I think this is one of the best works I have heard from Audible! Since reading it I have gone through two other of hers and continue to be a dedicated fan. Read a bit about Brooks on Google, it sounds like she has done a lot in her few years on terafirma so far. Thank you Geraldine Brooks for introducing me to so many great characters. Chuck
This is my second GB book and I loved them both! Ill be purchasing my third today. I highly recommend this audio book.
Nothing could have made this a 5-star experience, but having a different reader might have moved it up to 3 stars.
There really isn't a lot of historical accuracy or insight in this book. The reader just went by a historical marker for a city that isolated itself during the plague and decided to make up a story about it. It's not a bad story, but I wanted to come away with a real understanding of what it was like to live through the plague. I didn't.
I know that the reader (author) can't help that she has a monotone, somewhat whiney voice, but one wonders what editor could possible have allowed her to proceed with this endeavor. At times, she writes with considerable passion, but her reading never has even the slightest hint of passion. It is almost a parady of bad reading. There are absolutely no dynamics in her performance at all. Most computers speak with considerably more enthusiasm and emotion. It really wrecked what was only an OK book anyway.
If you've never though about what it must have been like to have the people surrounding you dropping like flies from disease, this book might cause you to think about it. It won't give you much insight into what it was like, but it might raise the subject in your mind. Some of the relationships in the book are moderately interesting.
A not terribly interesting book on a really interesting topic.
Brooks has a pleasant voice, but she tends to stay mild and quiet throughout this. I found it increasingly clear that she was not an actress -- not someone with formal voice training -- but that wasn't compensated for (as it sometimes is) by her proximity to the narrative voice. I believe much of the power of this novel comes from the distance between us and Anna, and Brooks is no closer her to her than any of the rest of us. She reads this with such a persistent quietness that I had to work harder than usual to stay engaged.
This is an ambitious book. Brooks tells us in the afterward that she set out to write an historical novel about a village that, confronted with plague, made the choice to quarantine themselves. That meant greater suffering on their part, but it spared others and it promised a kind of spiritual tempering.
In many ways, the central philosophical character is the rector, Montpelier, who makes this brave choice and inspires and holds others to it. He’s a thoughtful and gifted man, and many of the best passages in the book come when he delivers his sermons or converses on his thoughts. For most of the novel, he is too good to be true. Toward the end, he emerges in a different light, and I am sorry the novel ends before it can explore that light more fully.
That said, this is ultimately the story of Montpelier’s housemaid, Mary, who proves strong and thoughtful in her own way. She goes from being a young widow to a woman who finds a place for herself as a conscripted healer. Again, some of the best passages in the book turn on her discovering her medical prowess, in particular her capacity as a midwife.
Brooks is clear that she is imagining Anna's story – and, as a longtime reporter, she finds many sources to supplement the single reference to such a person in the historical source material – but, for me, Mary remains not-quite fully drawn. Her circumstances are engaging, and her sadness and hope come across as real, but we never quite see her mind as I would like.
Part of that, again, is because of Brooks’s clear ambition. She is not simply reporting a story she came across. She is also looking for language to capture an experience very different from ours of today. Some passages are longer and maybe clumsier than a contemporary novel would be, but that’s actually a strength: the strangeness of the narrative adds to the sense that this is a story told from a different era, one recovered only with great difficulty.
At the same time, if Anna is our pivotal point-of-view character, it’s hard not to want at least a little more from her. Or, that said, it may be that our being kept from her real thoughts is a nod to the challenge of writing (and perhaps reading) the novel: Brooks gives us the chance to see bravery of a different kind, a bravery essentially lost from the historical record, but even her imagination has to leave some elements of that lost history in shadow.
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