Saturday, January 05, 2008

2008 Book Challenge and Book Numero Uno

Alex at Besomiami has suggested as a challenge for this year that we blog about each of the books we read. Her challenge includes some sobering statistics about how little reading Americans actually do.

I thought I'd try this one -- I didn't last long with the 365 photo challenge last year but the beginning of the year is always a time for optmism. And so I've quickly finished up my first book of the year: Geraldine Brooks'
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. Set in 17th century England, the novel recounts the story of a small village infested with a plague which arrives with a tailor and his imported textiles. As one person after another succumbs, their friends and relatives, under the leadership of a determined pastor, make the decision to enclose themselves within their own bounds in the hope of saving others who live in their vicinity. Their plague year is then marked by both heroic selflessness and desperate, cowardly violence, with skillful women healers revered and then accused of witchcraft.

The stock elements of the historical novel are firmly lodged in place: the spunky heroine, the tragic losses, the (un) surprising romance, the wealthy wicked family seeking only to save itself, the pastor's regret and self-recrimination. But the writing is skillful and the detail wonderful. Some of the burial scenes remind me of those in the 1983 movie
Testament,which follows the fortunes of a Californa town after a nuclear attack through the eyes of one family as the population dies from radiation sickness and the survivors are overcome by the demands upon them and strive to maintain their sanity.

If I were still teaching world history to ninth graders, I would assign them sections of this novel as a way for the to delve into both the physical horrors and the human reactions -- both courageous and cowardly -- that marked the plague centuries.









8 comments:

Mother Laura said...

Thanks for flagging this! I'm in and dropped a comment over at Alex's place to say so.

Kathryn J said...

I loved this book. One of the most interesting aspects for me was the religious intolerance at the time. They spoke of groups worshipping in secret and the distrust between different sects. It gave new insight into the plight of the Puritans and why they were willing to risk all to find a new land.

traveller one said...

This is always on my list of personal favourites!

mompriest said...

One of my goals this year is to read non-church books. I mean books that I am not reading about leadership, ministry, worship, etc. Rather, novels. I guess they could have a "church" kinda theme, like this one...

Lisa :-] said...

Books. Yeah...right. I remember those. Somewhere back in my distant past...

Jan said...

This looks good. Like Mompriest, I need to read non-religious books more. I appreciate a suggestion with a review, as well as your commenters.

Lovie said...

I read this book a few years ago, but due to stress and illness at the time, I don't recall a lot of the detail.I think I will go through my library and give it another go. Thanks for the review and the reminder!

peripateticpolarbear said...

I read this one a couple of weeks ago, but didn't really like it as much as the others have! Then again, I'm not a historical novel person, so it was a bigger stretch for me.