Book Review: Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks

23 Oct

This is the last book I needed to read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge! This book was carefully selected for its setting in the 1600s. I’ve found there’s not a lot of books set in this era so it’s become a struggle each year to find a new book with this time period setting. I’m sure I’ll find more and hopefully, they’re not all depressing and about the plague!

Cover image via Goodreads

Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks

Summary from Goodreads:

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.”

I liked this book through the last chapter but I wish I hadn’t read the epilogue. It really ruined what had been a dynamic book. I liked that the character’s lives kept changing and that I couldn’t guess the terrors that would befall the citizens of the village and the characters we loved. I liked the dramatic irony of knowing Eleanor was going to die but not knowing how. It kept me on the edge of my seat. I think the epilogue was predictable and it made me roll my eyes. What is it about women having to get pregnant as their lives change at the end of best-selling books? I had a flashback to Sarah’s Key. It was too similar and soured the taste of what was an enjoyable book despite its depressing subject.

Anna was almost too perfect but her flaws made her believable enough. She didn’t seem to express too much emotion but that may have been the reader of my audiobook (the author herself). She had her moments of self-pity but was always able to pick herself back up. It seemed unbelievable but juxtaposed next to so many people who didn’t recover, she seems slightly more believable. Michael and Eleanor were great characters and I think they really made the novel.

Eleanor was a great character and it was hard not to love her. I felt bad for her, especially when Michael revealed his true colors. Even before then, it was obvious she was a sad person and that she was trying to atone for some great loss or fault. Her giving nature was contagious to Anna and I wished that it had been passed on to other women in the village.

Though I’ve never had a situation like Anna’s, I could understand her thoughts about giving up. I think a lot of people experience this when it comes to difficult work assignments, school, or relationships. Sometimes, it’s so tempting to give up and let yourself be overrun. Anna’s situation was truly dire, more so than anything I’ve experienced. Regardless, I’ve still felt the desire to curl up into a ball and forget about everyone else or to have enough to drink to forget for a moment that something terrible is happening. I guess we all have to be like Anna and not give into those thoughts every time they cross our minds.

Image via Amazon

Following Aphra’s demise was the most interesting part of the book for me. She was never a character I cared for much but I pitied her and watching her life slip away from her was heartbreaking which, in turn, means it was very well written. I could see how she would find everything that had rooted her slowly slipping away and I could see how it would come to the end and how she found herself. It’s sad to see that happen to a person but Brooks wrote it in a very believable way.

But that ending! The epilogue really ruined the book for me. I recommend anyone reading this book stop and not read the epilogue. I think Anna riding away from town would have been a fine ending but learning that she’d had a baby and named her Eleanor was too much of an eye-roller for me. Anna cared so much for her village and it was hard enough to think she’d leave them all but with her mothers’ instinct, I could almost believe it. Still, I wish it had stopped just a bit sooner.

The audiobook was narrated by the author and this is one of the cases where I think that was a terrible idea. Brooks made Anna sound drab and in a sense, I guess she was. However, the effect was that Anna felt removed from her emotions and almost had a ‘dead inside’ feel to her. She seemed to react superficially to everything around her and it was like she was a narrator and not a player in the story until the end when she got involved with Michael. I wish a professional narrator had done this one because I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

This story is one of loss and grief and how people deal with those two things. Anna and Eleanor fight to keep everything and don’t let their grief overwhelm them. Aphra lets her loss affect her entire life and loses herself in grief. The other villagers fall somewhere between these women and the book lets us see the interplay between the group. Both can be deadly.

Writer’s Takeaway: I felt like Anna was too much of a window to the plague and not enough a player in the story. This is why I can’t give this book a higher rating. Maybe it was the narration, but I think at least part of it was the writing. I wish Anna had been a bit more vested in most of the story. With her boys passing so early on, she felt numb to other people’s grief because she was living in a cloud of her own and only watching what happens around her. She finally had that fog lift at the end, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in her anymore. I would say that pacing the book differently and letting Jamie and Tom live longer might have helped me stay vested in Anna’s grief.

This was going to be a four-star read for me until the epilogue. Three out of Five stars.

This is the final book of the When Are You Reading? Challenge and I’ve now completed it! This book fulfilled the 1600-1699 time period.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks | Ardent Reader
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks | Blogging for a Good Book

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks”

  1. Rosie Amber October 23, 2017 at 12:18 PM #

    The plague years were definitely a sad time.
    I can recommend Ann Swinfen, Gemma Lawrence and Debra Swift for books which might be of use for your challenge.

    Like

    • Sam October 23, 2017 at 8:07 PM #

      Thank you! I’ll have to keep them in mind for books next year, I always struggle with this time period. Happy reading!

      Like

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