Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Year of Wonders

Image sourced from here
You can't describe this book. At all. It's one of those ones that just sounds incredibly boring. A small English town in 1666 realises they have an outbreak of the Plague and quarantine themselves off from the rest of the world, and 1/3 to 1/4 of them die. In fact my Mum described this to me a year or two ago and I thought the same thing. I did go and buy it though as we both have a Geraldine Brooks crush. And I am glad I did.

The thing is, I can't actually describe what I really liked about this book. The pacing and suspense (in parts) was great for a novel talking about something I thought would be boring. I thought I knew what the ending would be about, but I had no idea. That did seem a little left field, but not implausible at all.

This is a book that those who are wanting to use language styles in their historical novels should read. And emulate. The 17th Century language in how it was used, was not at all abrasive unlike other historical fictions I have read this year, and cleverly done. It was similar enough so we knew what was being said, but used enough to be different.

And it had just enough background that I could work out what was going on without feeling like I was being patronised. In fact it made me realise how little I know at all about the Puritans. Granted they are not in power any more in this book, but they are a lingering influence, and you can see the rector's struggle to keep the extreme views of the Puritans under control throughout their plight. I know they killed a king, brought in the only royalty free part in England's history, were so horrible at ruling (or their rules really) people went and found the rightful heir and begged him to come back and reinstate the royalty. Then the Puritans got a bit pissed at this and some of them buggered off and settled in the US. That is my TOTAL knowledge of them. I need to read some more about them. I prefer fiction with fact in there (I remember things better with a story), but happy for good non-fiction selections too so please recommend if people know any. And I need to dig out my list of historical witchcraft and witch trial books again.

Also, the book is based off a real town, Eyam, that did something incredibly similar to save those around it. That's pretty impressive. The author has used real names of people who she has replicated reasonable truthfully in her book. if she changed their character substantially or fictionalised them completely she changed their names. The plaque I have used as the image for this post shows the first cottage to be hit with the plague in reality, and you see that echoed in the book. It's done well and sensitively.

I just devoured it. Which I was surprised about as I wasn't a big fan of People of the Book. So if you like historical fiction (granted no battles if that is your thing), give this a go. It's short and sweet. And plaguey.

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