Saturday, October 19, 2013

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonder - A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

I have been in the habit lately of reading my high schooler's books that she has to read for school. I have read The Great Gatsby which I did read in high school but read again, and A Fault With The Stars, and now Year of Wonder. I love reading, I just wish I had more time on my hands as it does take me a while to get through a book. Now some of the books I wouldn't really find suitable for high schoolers, like why would we want to teach our kids about infidelity and what I find to be a very unhealthy attraction to someone as you will find in The Great Gatsby. A Fault with the Stars was great.

I just finished Year of Wonder. Of course, I did not like the ending. I like the perfect, happy ever after endings, but I guess this book was more compatible to reality, but definitely an eye opener to one who didn't know much about the plague. I mean, everyone knows that a lot of people lost their lives, but this book really put you in the situation. I couldn't even imagine, and I hope to never have to go through something like this.

Overview:  This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the “Plague Village,” tucked in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to the isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes the reader follows the story of the plague year, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love.

The book I was reading from the library did not have the picture on the front, and when I saw this print, it definitely did not look what I had imagined Anna Frith to look like.

I found it amazing that this was spread first from fleas. Really. I guess just like now with the EEE from misquotes.

Facts on the plague (I love facts):
The Black Death 
In the year 1665 death came calling on the city of London. Death in the form of plague. People called it the Black Death, black for the colour of the tell-tale lumps that foretold its presence in a victim's body, and death for the inevitable result. The plague germs were carried by fleas which lived as parasites on rats. Although it had first appeared in Britain in 1348, the islands were never totally free of plague, but it was like an unpleasant possibility that people just learned to live with while they got on with their business. This time it was different. 

In 1663 plague ravaged Holland. Charles II forbade any trade with the Dutch, partly out of wise concern, and partly because his realm was engaged in a fierce trade war with Holland which eventually erupted into armed conflict. Despite the precautions, the early spring of 1665 brought a sudden rise in the death rate in the poorer sections of London. The authorities ignored it. As spring turned into one of the hottest summers in memory, the number of deaths escalated and panic set in.

Heroism in the midst of horror 
One footnote to this tale of horror. The plague broke out in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, brought on a shipment of old clothes sent from London. The villagers, led by their courageous clergyman, realized that the only way to stop the spread of the plague to surrounding villages was to voluntarily quarantine the village, refusing to leave until the plague had run its course. This they did, though the cost was 259 dead out of a total of 292 inhabitants. Each year this heroic event is commemorated by the Plague Sunday Service in Eyam. 

And it was this heroism in the town of Eyam that brought us the book, Year of Wonder. A remarkable story told by author Geraldine Brooks, in whom in the Afterward in the book explained how she stumbled by chance upon this story when visiting Eyam in the summer of 1990 as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

I definitely would recommend this and it will certainly bring you back to what I think of as a historical tragedy. The author really puts you in the midst of the situation in which you can really feel the pain and suffering, the questions and concerns of a town, and the bazaar things that can happen to oneself and one's community when such a tragedy does occur. 

A good way to honor the lost, and the ones who survived.

Happy reading my friends. 

Peace out - Yo!!!!! God Bless

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