For 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.
Day 6, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
In 1665, in a small mining village in Derbyshire, England, a traveling tailor arrives from London to make clothes for the people in town. The tailor seeks lodging from Anna Frith, a housemaid and widow with two sons. It seems the tailor and Anna might fall in love, but a bolt of cloth the tailor ordered from London arrives. It is damp—and it carries bubonic plague. The tailor falls ill. Before he dies, he instructs Anna to burn the bolt, but the people in town won’t hear of it. The cloth is dry, and perfectly good now, and they’ve paid in advance for their outfits. And so the clothes made by the ill tailor from the bolt of infected cloth make their way into the village. Soon, there are more deaths, rumors of witchcraft, a spate of vigilantism, and calls to flee to survive. The village’s visionary young rector, however, offers a different plan: take a plague oath to remain in the village to avoid spreading the disease. This voluntary quarantine will be their trial, an ordeal to purify their souls in the same way the men of the town purify ore into lead and provide their livelihood.
Why is Year of Wonders a good read for women? This historical novel is narrated by Anna a year after the plague has run through the village. Her questions about God and Nature and her observations on guilt, faith, superstition, and forgiveness are woven into a beautifully crafted narrative. The book examines what people do under the strain of self-preservation and asks how a community that disintegrates from both outside and inside can be reborn. Although fiction, Year of Wonders is based on a true story of the Black Death and told by a gifted storyteller.