Anna Frith is the narrator of Year of Wonders. She is a woman of around twenty years old and had two sons with her husband Sam. Her childhood was unhappy, since her father was abusive both mentally and physically. To make ends meet after Sam dies in a mining accident, Anna works as a maid both at the rectory and at Bradford Hall; she and Elinor Mompellion become close as the plague spreads quickly through the village. Anna is curious and open-minded by nature, so she represents a logical, scientific mindset when dealing with the plague. She, along with Elinor, is the scientific front in the battle to cure the plague. As more people in the village die, Anna also takes up other trades such as midwifery and (though only for a day) mining.
Elinor Mompellion is the preacher’s wife and Anna’s closest friend in Year of Wonders. She is kind and even-tempered, and her wealthy childhood afforded her the luxury of being well-read and versed in a number of languages. However, Elinor gave up her life of affluence after marrying Michael Mompellion. She is grateful to Michael for marrying her, though it is slowly revealed that their marriage is not as fulfilling as it appears. Along with Anna, Elinor works through the scientific method to create tonics and medicines to help cure the plague and prevent it from spreading. Though she is a preacher’s wife and is highly religious, she knows that the medicinal properties of plants are the key to solving the plague problem -- and are perhaps more important than religious fervor.
Michael Mompellion is the relatively new preacher in the village. He is young and energetic, and even though he is religious, he has a more laid-back approach to spirituality than his Puritan peers. It was his idea for the village to isolate itself so that the plague could not spread to other towns or villages. As the epidemic runs its course, Michael becomes more worn and haggard on account of the sheer number of deaths he has to oversee each day. He has Elinor and Anna to support him, but he still keeps losing faith as the plague lessens his resolve. Though Anna sees his relationship with Elinor as sweet, Michael eventually reveals unsavory marital details that ultimately make Anna resent Michael's treatment of Elinor. This controlling aspect of Michael’s personality makes subtle but memorable appearances during his various interactions with the townspeople, showing that Michael’s easy-going persona might be a sham.
Anys Gowdie is the beautiful, alluring medicine woman of the village. Anna’s narration reveals that Anys was never religious but instead chose to study plants and their medicinal properties. For the Puritans, these two interests are mutually exclusive, so that Anys's singular lifestyle and aptitude as a healer cause many to believe that she is a witch; she is murdered one night by a mob after she resuscitates Mem Gowdie. While Anna in fact channels Anys’s strength and knowledge when helping the villagers confront their health problems, many wrongly believe that Anys’s ghost is selling spells to people.
Aphra Bont is Anna’s stepmother. She does not like Anna or the other villagers and resents the fact that she has less wealth than they do. Anna has questions about Aphra’s interest in witchcraft, and Aphra’s occult practices become a prominent issue as her children die from the plague. When her final child dies, she becomes angry and desperate for revenge on Anna, Elinor, and Michael, who she feels are responsible for her family’s demise.
George Viccars is a tailor who lodges with Anna after leaving London. He orders beautiful bolts of fabric from the city and has these bolts delivered to the house: these deliveries most likely brought the plague to the village. George and Anna are romantically interested in one another, but he is consumed by the plague before either can move the relationship forward. In his fevered delirium, George tells everyone to burn the dresses that he made for the women in the village. However, the villagers do not heed his advice.
Josiah Bont is Anna’s father. He had a difficult childhood and career, and he took his problems out on Anna, Aphra, and Aphra’s children. He is also an alcoholic, which creates further problems for himself and for Anna. After Anna comes to him in desperation, he becomes the gravedigger for the villagers. However, his greed takes over and he begins charging the villagers great sums of money to dig graves for their dying family members. His underhanded ways get the better of him, though: he is charged with burying Christopher Unwin alive in order to steal Christopher's belongings, and this scheme leads Josiah's own death.
The Bradfords are the wealthiest family in the village. The Colonel, who is the head of the Bradford household, is shown to be an angry, self-righteous man who is only interested in his own gain and status. The daughter Elizabeth sees everyone in the town as beneath her, so she treats the villagers as though they are worthless. Because of their wealth, the Bradfords leave before the plague hurts the family, even though Michael begs them to stay and be an asset to the community. When Mrs. Bradford becomes deathly ill during a difficult childbirth, she and Elizabeth seek out Michael to perform the last rites. Elizabeth is shocked, though, when nobody but Anna will come to the Bradfords' aid.
Mem Gowdie is an old apothecary nurse and Anys’s aunt. She was once accused of being a witch, but was found to be innocent of witchcraft even though she still spurned religion. Once the plague begins taking lives, an angry mob accuses Mem of witchcraft again and throws her into a well to test whether or not she is witch. Though Anys saves her aunt at the last moment, Mem still succumbs to the wounds she sustained while the mob beat her savagely.
Jane Martin is Anna’s nanny. Though she was once devoutly religious, she loses interest in civility and becomes a drunkard. Later, Anna and Michael see Jane having sex with a man on the street. Jane is extremely ashamed and looks to Anna for forgiveness, but Michael lambasts Jane for being impure.
John Gordon and his wife Urith are two villagers who tried to kill Mem Gowdie. John is controlling and abusive, while Urith has become meek and submissive under John’s heavy hand. John later becomes the first flagellant in the village and tries to force Urith to become a religious zealot as well. Yet John dies after falling off a cliff, and Urith succumbs to the plague after John's death. Their fates cause many to believe that John’s self-inflicted wounds were the only thing keeping both him and Urith from becoming victims, although Anna more accurately guesses that Urith contracted the plague when families sent her infected bales of hay to use as bedding.
Thomas Stanley is the previous rector of the village. He is a devout Puritan who quit his post when the monarchy instituted new rules concerning the Book of Common Prayer. During the plague, he becomes a counselor to Michael and supports Michael's decisions about the future of the village.
Merry Wickford is a nine-year-old Quaker girl who is the last of her family and the heir to the Wickford mine. She is bubbly and cheerful despite the deaths of her parents and siblings. In order to enable Merry to keep the family’s mine, Anna and Elinor take up picks and give Merry enough lead to meet her quota. Otherwise, Merry would have been forced to forfeit the mine.
Sam, Jamie, and Tom Frith
Sam, Jamie, and Tom Frith are Anna’s husband and her two sons, respectively. Anna describes Sam as a simple and gentle miner who preferred to be in the company of his family. He died in a mining accident before the plague came to the village. Jamie and Tom die in the first few months after the plague appears.
Christopher Unwin is a man who becomes infected with the plague. Through Anna and Elinor’s medicine, he is able to come back from the brink of death. However, Josiah tries to bury Christopher alive in order to steal his belongings. It is only after Christopher crawls out of his own grave that Josiah is charged with attempted murder and theft.
Brand Rigney was originally the pantry boy for the Bradfords. Once the family relieves the staff members of their duties, Brand and Maggie Cantwell try to leave for another village.
Maggie Cantwell was originally the cook for the Bradfords. She and Brand Rigney leave the village to seek out family elsewhere. However, she is beaten by a mob and dies from her injuries after returning to the village.
Ahmed Bey is a Muslim doctor in Barbary who takes on Anna as one of his wives, though they are married in name only. He allows Anna to further study medicine and helps take care of her two daughters.
Aisha and Elinor Frith
Aisha and Elinor Frith are Anna’s two daughters. Aisha is the adopted daughter birthed by Mrs. Bradford, and Elinor is Anna’s daughter by Michael.
Year of Wonders Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Year of Wonders is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
One day, Anna hears a mob some distance down the road. She approaches and sees Mem Gowdie on the ground. She has been tied up and is being beaten by a number of drunk villagers. They are accusing her of witchcraft, saying that she cursed the...