Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders Study Guide

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague was written by author and journalist Geraldine Brooks. It was published in 2011 and was chosen as both a New York Times and a Washington Post Notable Book. This novel is based on the true story of the village of Eyam, which isolated itself after becoming infected with the bubonic plague in 1666.

The story is told from the point of view of Anna Frith, a young housekeeper who works for the town minister and his wife. After a boarder inadvertently brings the plague with him from London, the disease quickly spreads to families throughout the village. Michael Mompellion, the minister, decides that it is best to quarantine the village in order to keep other towns safe. Yet as more of their neighbors die, Anna and Elinor Mompellion find it harder to keep up their spirits high: so many people are losing their faith and turning to superstitious means to cure themselves.

Already a vivid story about the plague, Year of Wonders also gives striking insight into the treatment of women during the seventeenth century. Accusations of witchcraft and severe punishments for infidelity are starkly illuminated. Brooks also takes care to portray the village’s religious and superstitious leanings alongside Anna’s interest in medicinal science. While her interest in this field grows from necessity, Anna nevertheless thrives because of her inquisitive and discerning mind.

Year of Wonders received much praise after it was initially published. Many reviewers commended the story for its journalistic approach to history, since Brooks had found a humanizing angle that enabled her to dig deep into the story and flesh out her characters with surprising clarity.