Year Of Wonders Summary

Geraldine Brooks

Year Of Wonders

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Year Of Wonders Summary

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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is by Pulitzer-prize winning author Geraldine Brooks. The novel was inspired by the true story of an isolated village in England, Eyam, during a plague in the seventeenth century. The residents of Eyam, known as the Plague Village, sacrificed themselves: the villagers quarantined the village to prevent the spread of the disease to the rest of the country.

The story is told through from the perspective of Anna Frith, a housemaid and unlikely heroine. Rather than start the tale at the start of the plague, Geraldine Brooks begins near its end,in the fall of 1666. Michael Mompellion is the village rector. His wife Elinor has recently died. Michael, Elinor, and Anna Frith have been the key caregivers in their village. Michael suffers from a lack of faith in his religion and in his community.

Next, Brooks takes the reader back to the Spring of 1665, before the start of the plague. How does a plague reach an isolated village? Eyam is a small, poor, rural village located in the rugged hill country of Derbyshire, England. Anna Frith is an 18-year old widow with two children. To survive, she takes in an itinerant tailor, George Remington Viccars, as a tenant in her home. George receives a shipment of cloth from London to make dresses for his clients. The cloth carries the plague with it. The tailor gets ill with a high fever and symptoms of the bubonic plague. He dies a few days after catching the illness. Before he dies, George figures out that the cloth must be the cause of his illness. His dying words to Anna are to beg her to burn the dresses and cloth. Anna ignores him, and the infected dresses go to his customers’ homes.

As Anna deals with her grief, she ponders her romantic attraction to her tenant, George. Anna learns that George had a sexual relationship with Anys Gowdie, a widow who serves as the village’s midwife and herbalist. Anys tells Anna that George has feelings for her. After briefly becoming jealous of Anys, Anna returns her focus to caring for her children. Anna finds work as a housemaid for a wealthy family in the village, the Bradfords. While at the Bradfords’, Anna learns that a plague has struck London.

The death toll begins as villagers get ill with the plague and die. First is a village boy. A doctor confirms the diagnosis of plague and refuses to return to their village again. Anna’s two sons and neighbors are among the first victims.

Anys Gowdie and her niece are accused of witchcraft and of having caused the deaths. The villagers form an angry mob and murder the two women to end the curse on their village. The rector, Michael Mompellion, is the new priest in the village. He faces the mob and orders them to acknowledge their sins.

In his Sunday sermon, Michael begs the people to stop rioting. He also urges all the residents to stay in the village. This will stop the spread of the plague to other villages and towns. The village needs to put itself in quarantine. Even though this is effectively a death wish upon the residents, the villagers agree to be cocooned and isolated from the outside world—except for the wealthy Bradford family, which immediately begins packing to flee the village and try to outrun the plague.

After the Bradfords leave, Anna goes to work for the Mompellions. Anna and Elinor Mompellion are two ordinary women dealing with extraordinary circumstances. They become the village midwives and caregivers. They gather plants and medicines from the Gowdies to help care for people. Elinor takes the uneducated Anna under her wing and teaches the fastlearner how to read. The two women become close as they struggle to care for their village.

Meanwhile, Michael Mompellion attends to the spiritual requirements of the dying villagers. He also tries to prevent his flock from taking up vices such as drink, violence, and superstition. He eventually comes up with the idea that the villagers should burn all of their belongings to get rid of the plague.

Michael’s plan works. Michael holds a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the plague. During the service, Elinor is killed by a village woman who has gone mad after the death of all her children.

Finally, the novel returns to the point where it started. Michael is no longer able to care for the villagers due to his grief and loss of faith. As Anna tries to comfort him, the two make love. Michael confesses to Anna that he never forgave his wife for having had an abortion before their marriage. He never had sex with his wife. Anna leaves in disgust, believing that Michael has taken his faith too far. Anna leaves the village with the bastard baby of Elizabeth Bradford, whom she delivers after she flees Michael.

In the epilogue, it is three years later. Anna had originally planned to stay in England with Elinor’s family. Instead, she boards a boat to Oran, on the coast of North Africa. After meeting a Muslim doctor, she becomes the doctor’s wife, in name only, in order to study under him. She becomes a midwife to the local Muslim women. Besides Elizabeth Bradford’s daughter, Aisha, she also has a child named Elinor, whose father is Michael Mompellion.