Monday, March 21, 2011

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague (Brooks)

This book has been on my nightstand for -oh, I don't know- maybe five years. It's been on my t0-read list for much longer. I finally bit the bullet, moved it to the top, and read it. 

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague has intrigued me for years. For whatever reason, I've always been intrigued by the Plague. And I've read several books about it. All have impressed me with the mysteriousness of the times, the witchery, the uncertainty, and lack of desperate overall clinging to life.

This novel was no different. Geraldine Brooks is a fantastic wordsmith. The way she crafts words into thoughts, and thoughts into sentences left me in awe many times.

Surprisingly, the book was a rather quick read for me who falls asleep easily two sentences into anything anymore. When I reached the end of the book, I had to go back and look to see that the title did not say Years of Wonders. For all that happened, I was sure that this took place over several years. I'm still amazed that it was only one year.

This book crossed my path a number of years ago when a couple of my children took a community college level microbiology class. The professor required it as outside reading for the class. So I put it on my to-read list wondering what in it would be intriguing for a microbiology student. I can't say I have the answer for that. I'm sure the professor, a young women herself, read and was moved by the book. Of course, there is little in the novel regarding any causative agent of the Plague, and because little was known during the 1660s about the cause, the mystery led to all sorts of wild reasoning.

Another reason I wanted to read it was to see if it was acceptable to place on my classroom bookshelves, either for middle or upper school students. Only a few scenes in the book give me decided reasons not to place it on the classroom shelves. If it weren't for several scenes of sexual behavior, one in particular was quite descriptive, I would recommend this book. But I cannot. The descriptions are too graphic for middlers and uppers and there is no reasons to incite and excite their curiosity. Frankly, the story could have been told well without those inclusions. They neither add to nor detract from the tale.

Geraldine Brooks uses sensory imagery superbly. You smell what she writes. You feel what she writes. You hear what she writes. You taste what she writes. Her word choices are effective. She will make the reader live through the Plague. She will cause you, as the reader, to hold your breath in anticipation. I'm sure she caused my eyes to dilate with apprehension and fear at times.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is worth reading as an adult. I even think excepts could be used while studying the Plague to add to the sense of realism.

The following first paragraph hopefully will whet your appetite for her writing.

"I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there's be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stooks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me."

1 comment:

Carol said...

I've added it to my TBR list. That first paragraph did it for me!

Thank you, my friend.