Geraldine Brooks is the author of five novels: the Pulitzer Prize-winning March; the international bestsellers Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders; and, most recently, The Secret Chord. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha's Vinyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.
Having mastered nonfiction in two previous outings (e.g., Nine Parts of Desire), former war correspondent Brooks takes on fiction. In 1666, a remote English village infected with the plague is persuaded by a fiery young preacher to seal itself off in a brutal quarantine. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Discriminating readers who view the term historical novel with disdain will find that this debut by praised journalist Brooks (Foreign Correspondence) is to conventional work in the genre as a diamond is to a rhinestone. With an intensely observant eye, a rigorous regard for period detail, and assured, elegant prose, Brooks re-creates a year in the life of a remote British village decimated by the bubonic plague. Inspired by the actual town commemorated as Plague Village because of the events that transpired there in 1665-1666, Brooks tells her harrowing story from the perspective of 18-year-old Anna Frith, a widow with two young sons. Anna works as a maid for vicar Michael Mompellion and his gentle, selfless wife, Elinor, who has taught her to read. When bubonic plague arrives in the community, the vicar announces it as a scourge sent by God; obeying his command, the villagers voluntarily seal themselves off from the rest of the world. The vicar behaves nobly as he succors his dwindling flock, and his wife, aided by Anna, uses herbs to alleviate their pain. As deaths mount, however, grief and superstition evoke mob violence against "witches," and cults of self-flagellation and devil worship. With the facility of a prose artist, Brooks unflinchingly describes barbaric 17th-century customs and depicts the fabric of life in a poor rural area. If Anna's existential questions about the role of religion and ethical behavior in a world governed by nature seem a bit too sophisticated for her time, Brooks keeps readers glued through starkly dramatic episodes and a haunting story of flawed, despairing human beings. This poignant and powerful account carries the pulsing beat of a sensitive imagination and the challenge of moral complexity. (Aug. 6) Forecast: Brooks should be a natural on talk shows as she tells of discovering the town of Eyam, in Derbyshire, in 1990, and her research to unearth its remarkable history. With astute marketing, Viking will have a winner here. BOMC, Literary Guild and QPB featured alternates; 8-city author tour; rights sold in England, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-Brooks's title is based on the actual lead-mining village of Eyam, Derbyshire, whose inhabitants voluntarily quarantined themselves for a year when stricken with Bubonic Plague in 1665-1666. Anna Frith is widowed at 18 by a mining accident and is the mother of two young boys. Through her recollections, readers live through the year as her endurance and abilities are sorely tested. Anna works for the new young minister's wife, who teaches her to read and becomes more of a companion than a mistress. At her employers' suggestion, Anna takes in a boarder to help meet expenses. The man is a tailor and when a shipment of fabrics, apparently flea infested, is delivered from London-the plague is suddenly upon them. The minister convinces his flock to make the supreme sacrifice and arranges for food and supplies to be delivered to the outskirts of the hamlet. The story is a portrait of the best and worst in people faced with sorrow, terror, and death. Some succumb to madness, others display cowardice and hysteria, and a few look for solutions in murder or self-mutilation. Through it all, however, Anna grows in strength, abilities, and understanding as she faces the loss of her children, her friends, and her innocence, and takes on the tasks of an ever-dwindling populace. This is an excellently portrayed study of the wonder of human courage.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Praise for Year of Wonders The novel glitters . . . A deep imaginative engagement with how people are changed by catastrophe. --The New Yorker "Plague stories remind us that we cannot manage without community . . . Year of Wonders is a testament to that very notion . . . [The villagers] assume collective responsibility for combating the plague, rather than seeing it as an act of God before which they are powerless." --The Washington Post Year of Wonders is a vividly imagined and strangely consoling tale of hope in a time of despair. --O, The Oprah Magazine Brooks proves a gifted storyteller as she subtly reveals how ignorance, hatred and mistrust can be as deadly as any virus. . . . Year of Wonders is itself a wonder. --People A glimpse into the strangeness of history that simultaneously enables us to see a reflection of ourselves. --The New York Times Book Review Elegant and engaging. --Arthur Golden Year of Wonders has it all: strong characters, a trememdous sense of time and place, a clearly defined heroine and a dastardly villain. --The Denver Post