Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

The year is 1665 and Anna Frith is a young widow struggling to raise two young sons in a small mountain village.  She works as a servant at the local rectory and tends her small herd of sheep to make ends meet.  Everyone living in the village are simple but superstitious folk who waver between devout puritan Christianity and belief in the old pagan ways.

A Plague infected bolt of cloth turns the life and times of the villagers in turmoil and Anna’s tale details the devastation of village life, homes and family.  The rector of the village convinces almost everyone in the village to quarantine themselves by staying within the boundaries of the village.

Anna’s own experiences lead her to an increased knowledge of herbs and healing which in those times could be a dangerous thing as fears of witchcraft still featured in the village attitudes.

But the damp after the heat brought fleas beyond any infestation I remember.  It is an odd thing, how biting pests of all kinds will find one person flavoursome and another not to their liking at all.
Year of Wonders p. 73

This book is based on the experiences of the village of Eyam in the Darbyshire Peakdistrict UK.  Anna Frith is a fictional character but some other characters are drawn from known personalities of the time.   Reading this book and doing a bit of research on the village has made me want to visit this otherwise lovely little village.  Am I being a bit ghoulish?

Eyam Gravestone (photo credit

I enjoyed reading this book but I did find the end to be too unrealistic.  Granted there was no predictable ending (my pet hates) but a twist at the end should be plausible and well as surprising.

Eyam District (photo from

6 responses to “Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

  1. I enjoyed this book – I actually live in Derbyshire and the peaks are lovely, although I’ve never actually visited Eyam itself. I only discovered a few months ago that Brooks is Australian though – how odd that she wrote something seemingly so personal about Derbyshire … unless she was a fellow Aussie displaced-in-Derbyshire.

    • I think Brooks is Australian/American but the edition of the book that I have contains some notes from her detailing why she found the story of Eyam interesting. Apparently the story about Mompesson convincing the villagers to stay when the plague broke out was issue that set the spark and Brooks developed an interest in some of the smaller players in the story.

      I have heard that the Derbyshire peaks are very pretty. Visiting is now on my bucket list.

  2. Like you, I really loved this book, except for that very, very strange ending! I am going to go and hear her speak soon, which I am very excited about!

  3. Yes I’ve just re-read the book – enjoyed the majority of the book until the ending – wihch I had forgotten about.
    So incongruous for Mompesson to act that way – and a slur really on someone who is based on a real individual.
    I’m always a bit intrigued when people base stories on fact and then branch out into fiction – why not either write an historically accurate account or a purely fictional one? Same goes for films too.

  4. Pingback: Year of wonders | Susan Hated Literature

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