I recently read a book that I had never heard of, by an author I had never heard of. By the end of it I was wondering why I had never heard of either the book or the author, as it was a really good book and particularly because it was published in 2001 – am I just late in discovering it? It is called Year Of Wonders and the author is Geraldine Brooks. It always makes me wonder why some books take so long to make into the hands of enough readers to bring it to attention. If I remember correctly, even the Harry Potter series was a little slow to start (I could be wrong about that though). Is it word of mouth that eventually puts these books on the best seller lists? Is it the thrusting of the book into the hands of friends that does it? Or is it people like me blogging about it? I know that I personally tell everyone I know to read a book after I have read it. I never usually think about whether they will actually like it or not, but if they don’t read it, how will they know? Anyway, I digress. Regardless of how this particular book made it on to the Dymocks 101 List, I am grateful that it made it there otherwise I may never have found it on my own.
The story is told through the eyes of a young servant girl names Anna, who has already been touched by tragedy in her life before the plague hits, but could not possibly foresee the tragedy that would befall her over the coming year. Brooks has done well in creating this character. She has been created from a factual figure that appears fleetingly in historical records, so aside from that she has been built from the ground up. She is a completely believable character and I enjoyed looking at the proceedings through the eyes of someone of her status, rather than someone of a better family that was brought down by the sickness. I think that sort of character has been done enough and it is refreshing to follow someone starting out with very little and seeing how they grow through the adversity.
I can’t imagine the amount of research that must have gone into this book. I know from my own experience that finding records from that time is almost impossible and when you do find them, they are often quite hard to decipher. Perhaps it is easier to find information if you are in the same country as the record you are seeking, but that is something that I can not vouch for. I admire Brooks’ writing. It feels to me that she has become completely absorbed in the life of Anna and possibly used some of her own thoughts and feelings to enrich the character. Anna truly is a person that everyone is able to relate to.
RATING – 8 out of 10. The book was excellent up until the end – it seemed a little bit rushed to me.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – People interested in historical fiction
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – Definitely Anna. She is completely human in every way possible. If you read the book you will understand what I mean by this.