This is the first book that I have read and reviewed for this challenge (finally!). I am participating in this challenge at the Royalty level, and my goal is to read from each category: modern medieval fiction, medieval non-fiction, and classic texts. In addition to this book I will also be reading Medieval Britain: The Age of Chivalry, Pillars of the Earth, The Canterbury Tales, Le Morte D'Arthur, and one other non-fiction book that I have yet to choose.
To begin this review, I have to say that I am a big Geraldine Brooks fan, this being the only novel by her that I had not previously read. Unfortunately, this is not her best book.
Year of Wonders takes place in the 1600's, in a tiny mining village in England. The narrator is Anna, a young woman who has lived through the year, and helped to bury more than half the people in this town. Her lodger was the first person to die of the Plague, which takes her children and many others as well, eventually. In an effort to confine the disease, the town decides to cut itself off, allowing no one in or out, and receiving help from the neighboring towns only when that help can be left at a distance. Their efforts keep the disease from spreading any further, yet perhaps causes more deaths in their own village.
The heroic efforts of this small village come at a great cost. This book is definitely more violent than I had expected. Some of it is simply the violence of the time: witch trials, punishments for theft. Some of it seems unnecessary, however, although I understand that Brooks was trying to convey the madness that some of the villagers struggled with in their grief. The book is wonderfully well researched, which makes for a story that feels true. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the Plague, or in this time period, but it it not easy to read about what these people went through. Life was hard enough in the Medieval Period without the Plague.