When the black plague spreads to a remote village in England during the year 1666, Anna Frith emerges as a healer and the main character in the story. We follow her as she witnesses, first hand, the effects of sickness and death on a small community. The townspeople soon turn from hopeful prayers to witch hunts to keep the plague at bay. Anna must find the strength within to continue healing those around her. It’s based on the true story of the town called Eyam in the hill country of England where the citizens decided to isolate the town to prevent the spread of the plague to nearby towns.
If you’re looking for a quick recommendation, yes, I would definitely recommend this book!
I love a good historical fiction novel, and this is easily one of the best ones I’ve ever read. It seems an obvious and heroic choice when the townspeople decide to self-quarantine. But as the story wears on, it becomes apparent that it won’t be easy to stay the path. Anna struggles as she witnesses her friends and acquaintances fall ill and die. I felt as though I was there with her. Which is difficult to do, considering it’s the year 1666.
As the people turn vengeful with a thirst for blood, it becomes more and more difficult not to yell at the pages. Now, this book, despite its short length, does not focus solely on the effects of the plague on the community. But it’s also a love story.
Anna finds herself drawn to the local preacher who is already married. She is also good friends with the preacher’s wife, who teaches her everything she knows about healing and comforting the sick. I believe this adds to the story. It speaks to our ability as humans to find hope and love when our circumstances might be heartbreaking and difficult. I know she’s technically interested in a married man, but I still think it adds depth.
Something I found interesting while I read this book was the lack of effect that death had on me toward the end of the book. In the beginning, Anna lists the townspeople who recently died due to the plague. And it feels awful then, but as the story progresses, and she continues to list people, I felt less and less affected by it. Which I think speaks to the author’s ability to put the reader in the main character’s shoes. Anna may have felt just as I did. When I could no longer look at the list of those who died and feel much of anything. Sad, but with the realization that this would continue for some time and it would be easier to detach. To protect herself.
Overall, I would recommend this to a busy mom. I realize it doesn’t sound like the most uplifting read, and maybe it isn’t, but I believe it shows how resilient we can be. When it seems like everything around us is on fire, we can choose to stand our ground and say, “I’m not going anywhere.” For ourselves and the people we love.
Five out of five stars
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If you enjoyed my review of Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, you might also like Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Check out my review!
If you’re interested in purchasing Year of Wonders, here are some quick links to buy the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And, if you’re interested to see what others think, here’s the link to the book on Goodreads.