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Year of Wonders

By: Geraldine Brooks
Narrated by: Geraldine Brooks
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Summary

A young woman’s struggle to save her family and her soul during the most extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly visited a small Derbyshire village and the villagers, inspired by a charismatic preacher, elected to quarantine themselves to limit the contagion.

In 1666, plague scorched London, driving the king and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, to escape contagion. The North of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection.

So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction. 

Geraldine Brooks’ novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th-century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestience. Year of Wonders is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England’s last great plague.

©2022 Geraldine Brooks (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"A Year of Wonders is a staggering fictional debut that matches journalistic accumulation of detail to natural narrative flair." (Guardian)

"A lyrically written and emotionally engaging novel." (Independent)

"The plot is gripping, I like the psychological subtlety of characters struggling with a shifting world, and it’s packed with historical detail." (Daily Mail

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Terrible, droning narrator

This book had been recommended to me, and I was really looking forward to enjoying it. However, the narrator has the most awful droning, unclear voice. I found her difficult to understand, and kept falling asleep and having to rewind. Such a shame, because I never got to the end of the book – I returned it and got my money back.

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Wonderous book

I read this book years ago and whilst I loved it then had forgotten so much until listening on audible. What a delight to have the writer speak her own words. Beautiful enthralling thought provoking tale. Listen and decide yourself

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  • Adrienne Bartlett
  • 06-10-22

I cant recommend this book

I appreciate the hardships that people suffered during the plague, however I found nothing in the book to make me want to read to the end. The narrator is paramount to the sucess of an audible book, and I found Ms Brooks manner of reading so monotonous I couldn't finish it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-22

Wonders in the horrors

For a story about self-sacrificial love in the face of horrors, “Year of Wonders” is an apt title. While Brooks explores physical and psychological frailty and moral fallibility, the thread of hope running through this story is never dropped. As one protagonist falters, another is there to pick up the strain. A higher calling inspires them to sacrifice themselves in service of each other and their wider community, even though it comes at a tragic cost. Brooks manages to weave these strands of wonder and horror without being didactic, as the characters are fellow sufferers in the journey of life.

Although this is not a pleasant read, it is a story that will stay with me. The questions that the book raises are no longer hypothetical. I ask myself now, what acts of love can I do in the current pandemic to protect others, and what is the cost to our humanity if we focus solely on our own needs?

It was a privilege to hear the book being narrated by the author. Her gentle voice and Australian accent with a slight American tone, might not be what you would like to hear in a story set in the East Midlands of England. If accents bother you, my advice would be to focus instead on the rhythm and intonation of the reading, being delivered by the author herself, so as not to miss out on this story. Personally, I found Brook’s gentle delivery of the often tragic content very moving.