Last summer (right around the time I started my blog), I read a great book by Geraldine Brooks called March. Last month, I learned Ms. Brooks had won the Pulitzer prize for fiction for this book. In talking to some other folks about this author and her award, we all agreed it was a well deserved win. But, I was one of the few who had read March. Most of the other women were commenting on the skills she demonstrated in her first fictional work, A Year of Wonders. They had concluded that based on how great that book was, March had to be equally well written and worthy of such prestigious award as the Pulitzer Prize. Well, somehow I'd missed the fact that she'd written a book before March and knew immediately what book I wanted to start reading.
The book tells the story of the village of Eyam in Derbyshire England and what its citizens did back in 1665 to prevent the spread of the Plague when it struck their village. The narration is provided by Anna, a young maid who works for the village minister and his wife.
Truly it is a fascinating story. Tragic in the numbers of citizens lost to this horrific infection. Yet, amazing in reading how the villagers made a very difficult decision to isolate themselves so as to prevent the infection from spreading to nearby communities. The faith it takes to make such a selfless decision. Well, I'm not sure I'm that strong of a person.
The story is historically based but fiction: so the author has created characters based on what she thinks they might have done during this time. She created some very vivid characters and the story itself felt very real.
Now, who shouldn't read this book? Well, for starters, if you are a germaphobe, I suggest you skip this one. The first night after I started reading the story, I had some pretty vivid dreams. Having watched Colonial House on PBS a few summers ago, I had a pretty good idea of the harsh living conditions of the time. Toss in something as disgusting as the plague, and you've got an icky setting for a story. The author manages to describe the conditions in a simple style but the images your mind creates are very vivid.
Also, if you are not of the believing type, I don't think you'd find the book to be as interesting as I did. For the citizens to make such a decision, they relied very heavily on their belief in God and the teachings of the Bible. The author makes a fair amount of references to the worship practices of the time and if you are turned off by a religious tone to books you read, you might want to skip this book. But, to be true to that period of time in history, the author would have been wrong to not address the role that the Church played in society.
But as for the rest of you, you simply must read A Year of Wonders....You'll be wondering long after you finish the book what you would have done had you been faced with similar decision. Would you be able to continue to live when all around you is nothing but sorrow and sadness?
I'm still wondering myself....long after having finished the book