45 reviews

Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks

Published: 2002-04-30
Kindle Edition : 323 pages
117 members reading this now
139 clubs reading this now
77 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 43 of 45 members
An unforgettable tale of a brave young woman during the plague in 17th century England from the author The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 

When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as ...
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An unforgettable tale of a brave young woman during the plague in 17th century England from the author The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 

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.

Editorial Review

Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders describes the 17th-century plague that is carried from London to a small Derbyshire village by an itinerant tailor. As villagers begin, one by one, to die, the rest face a choice: do they flee their village in hope of outrunning the plague or do they stay? The lord of the manor and his family pack up and leave. The rector, Michael Mompellion, argues forcefully that the villagers should stay put, isolate themselves from neighboring towns and villages, and prevent the contagion from spreading. His oratory wins the day and the village turns in on itself. Cocooned from the outside world and ravaged by the disease, its inhabitants struggle to retain their humanity in the face of the disaster. The narrator, the young widow Anna Frith, is one of the few who succeeds. With Mompellion and his wife, Elinor, she tends to the dying and battles to prevent her fellow villagers from descending into drink, violence, and superstition. All is complicated by the intense, inexpressible feelings she develops for both the rector and his wife. Year of Wonders sometimes seems anachronistic as historical fiction; Anna and Mompellion occasionally appear to be modern sensibilities unaccountably transferred to 17th-century Derbyshire. However, there is no mistaking the power of Brooks's imagination or the skill with which she constructs her story of ordinary people struggling to cope with extraordinary circumstances. --Nick Rennison, Amazon.co.uk


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Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. All of the characters in this novel have their failings and as a result they are all fully human. Are you surprised by the secrets Elinor and Michael Mompellion each reveal to Anna about their marriage? How do they change your feelings about each character? Do they make either seem weaker in a way?

2. The Bradford family bears the brunt of Mompellion's rage when they leave town to save themselves. However, weren't they only doing what every other noble family did in those days: run because they had the means to run? Setting aside the events near the end of the novel (which make it clear that one would be hard-pressed to find a redeeming quality in any of them), can you really blame the Bradfords for running?

3. How much of Mompellion's push for the quarantine had to do with the secrets he shared with Elinor? Did his own dark side and self-loathing push him to sacrifice the town or was he really acting out of everyone's best interests?

4. Keeping in mind that this story takes place a good twenty-five years before the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, what is the role of the Gowdie women in the novel? What is it about these women that drives their neighbors to murderous rage? How does their nonconformity lead to their becoming scapegoats?

5. How would you explain Anna's mental and spiritual unraveling? What are the pivotal experiences leading up to her breakdown and her eventual rebirth?

6. Discuss the feminist undertones of the story. How does each female character—Anna, Elinor, the Gowdies, and even Anna's stepmother—exhibit strengths that the male characters do not?

7. In a story where the outcome is already known from the very beginning—most of the villagers will die—discuss the ways in which the author manages to create suspense.

8. The author creates an incredible sense of time and place with richly textured language and thoughtful details—of both the ordinary (everyday life in Eyam) and the extraordinary (the gruesome deaths of the villagers). Discuss some of the most vivid images and their importance to the story and to your own experience reading it.

9. Can we relate the story of this town's extraordinary sacrifice to our own time? Is it unrealistic to expect a village facing a similar threat to make the same decision nowadays? What lessons might we learn from the villagers of Eyam?

Suggested by Members

We used the ones at the back of the book
by [email protected] (see profile) 10/15/16

by [email protected] (see profile) 10/10/16

What character do you think is most like yourself, and why?
by janvbarnes (see profile) 04/25/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

We had a very lively discussion with a lot of historical background information
by [email protected] (see profile) 10/15/16
by [email protected] (see profile) 10/10/16

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Great author, great topic, not so great ending"by Emi Y. (see profile) 03/28/22

Geraldine Brooks is a great story teller and Year of Wonders is a great story about the plague in 1666, told from the point of view of Anna Frith. As a child Anna escaped an impoverished and abusive home... (read more)

by emily p. (see profile) 05/09/21

by Kim C. (see profile) 10/21/20

by Elisa J. (see profile) 07/04/20

by Bea S. (see profile) 01/03/19

  "Year of Wonders"by Kathy H. (see profile) 01/30/18

I've read her other fiction, but not this first novel until now. Brooks knows how to tell a good story, from a bit of historical fact. I would recommend her to any friend who enjoys reading historical... (read more)

  "Year of Wonders"by Lois W. (see profile) 10/15/16

Very informative, with a mysterious angel and surprise ending.

  "Year of wonders. "by Vanessa S. (see profile) 10/10/16

The ending was too quick & unrealistic. Very well written.

by Yvonne S. (see profile) 11/10/15

  "Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks"by Cheryl B. (see profile) 11/22/13

The subtitle of 'A novel of the plague' really says it all. This book details how Anna Frith and her fellow townspeople survive a plague year in their small village. After deciding that they will quarantine... (read more)

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