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A THOUGHT-PROVOKING NOVEL OF THE PLAGUE

Year of Wonder

A review of:

Brooks, Geraldine. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. New York: Viking, 2001. Print.

In her masterfully written novel, “Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague,” Wall Street Journal correspondent, Geraldine Brooks, transports readers to a remote miner village in Eyam, England in the midst of the 1666 plague outbreak. Through the eyes of a simple servant girl, Anna Firth, we witness first-hand the awesome power of a major catastrophe to unravel deeply rooted conventions and convictions. Social mores and values, class systems and moral codes, once so steadfast and omnipotent no longer matter when everyone from the butcher, to the baker, to the candlestick maker is hemorrhaging bulges of puss before succumbing to rosy ringed skin and finally, the Black Death.

How do you find meaning in life when death kills the innocent and allows the guilty to thrive? Who do you turn to when there is no one left to help you bury your loved ones? What good is wealth and social standing when there is nothing left to buy and no one left to acknowledge it?

Geraldine Brook’s novel is more than an account of a tight knit community that voluntarily agrees to quarantine itself during the plague in exchange for the delivery of goods and basic needs from outside towns. Her book is a thought-provoking examination of life’s existential questions on how society functions and the fragility and seeming futility of social laws, order and hierarchies when the Plague comes to town.

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