Year of Wonders is a book about religion, medicine, and how a small village of Eyam, England overcome a dreadful plague. This novel, written by Geraldine Brooks is based on true events, lasting from 1665-1666, a bubonic plague occurred in England. Anna Firth, along with the villagers try to survive the plague by isolating themselves from other villages in England.
The village is very small therefore; the people are very warm, welcoming and they take care of each other and go out of their own way to help. Anna Firth, the central character, is a single widowed mother of two little boys Jamie and Tom. She works as a house maiden for Michael Mompellion and his wife Elinor Mompellion. Michael is a rector at the village church and is a sensible man to give Anna work when she lost her husband Sam in a mining accident.
The plague had started in London first, but the first signs of plague showed up in Eyam was when George Viccars, a tailor from London came to live at Anna’s house as a paying guest. Mr. Viccars was the first one to fall sick and passed away in a matter of days after he had a fever. Soon after, the elderly and the children started getting sick, they passed away along with Anna’s both sons. “Soon you will be with your father, he’ll still be able to hold you like that. You’ll be so comfortable in his strong arms (Brooks, 2001)”, Anna whispered in Tom’s ears on his last breath. With the loss of a brother, Jamie had fallen sick as well. Anna was strong and determined, so she tried some remedies recommended by Mr. Mompellion’s friend from University of Cambridge. Even with the strong efforts, Anna had lost her son after suffering for five days.
As the village was dying from the plague, Michael Mompellion tried to have a positive attitude and kept the people calm through this dreadful time. Mem and Anys Gowdie were herb experts and had a garden full of different exquisite herbs that they used to treat the villagers. The villagers called Gowdies “witch (Brooks, 2001) pg.88” along with “whore, jade, and fornicator (Brooks, 2001) pg. 91” and took their lives.
After Gowdies death, Michael Mompellion took it upon him to bring the village together and help them bring more closer to God. “Dear brothers and sisters, we know that God sometimes has spoken to his people in a terrible voice, by visiting dread things upon them. There are some who would say that God sends us this thing not in love, but in rage. But I do not think God sends us this plague in anger. I do not think we here in this village are Pharaoh in his eyes” (Brooks, 2001) pg. 100-101. The rector wanted the village to stay together instead of fleeing and finding some other place of residence outside of the village. The Bradfords, one of the wealthiest family in the village, had fled to Oxford as soon as they realized that the plague is out of control. Even after Rector plead to Colonel Bradford, they did not listen one bit and left the village leaving all of their employees jobless.
Over the course of the next year, Anna Firth and Elinor Mompellion used Gowdie’s garden and herbs to find cure for the ill families in the village. Both went from helping the ill to bringing new babies in this plague world. Anna and Elinor found a purpose and a friendship as a result of this plague. They discovered a book of medicine and remedies that they used to cure the common cold, and eventually tried to cure the plague. Even with all the remedies, there were still deaths in the villages. Day by day, there were less people at the church hall on Sundays. Some villagers had disbelief in God, where some had found dark magic to confront the sickness. Aphra, Anna’s stepmother, had turned toward the madness of dark magic and accused the rector of being the enemy of the village. She came to attack the rector and in the fight, killed herself and Elinor Mompellion.
Michael Mompellion, the rector, had lost all hope after the death of his beloved wife, who made her purpose to help people in the village in every way possible. Anna had lost her best friend and partner in science. Anna had no reason to live in the village after Elinor’s death, but Michael( elaborate). Instead of finding a friend in Michael, Anna was attracted to him and they fell in bed together before Anna came to realize that Michael is not a good man. He does not care for human emotions and only care for his belief. It was this moment where Anna had lost her faith in God.
Anna found a chance to flee the village when she gave birth to Mrs. Branford’s illegitimate child. Anna took the little girl because the Branford’s wanted to kill her as she was a bastard child. Anna traveled far and made her way to “port of Oran, home of Andalus Arabs (Brooks, 2001) pg. 300”. Anna met a famous doctor Ahmed Bey, who gave a her home, made her his wife and had given her a respectable name. Together, Ahmed and Anna practiced medicine, healing and studying new diseases. At the end of the novel, Anna Firth was happy with her two daughters; Maryam (Bradford’s daughter) and Elinor (Ahmed and Anna’s daughter). She had come a long way and learned so much in these two years. She had made a commitment with Ahmed about faith “I cannot say that I have faith anymore. Hope, perhaps. We have agreed that it will do, for now” (Brooks, 2001) pg. 300.
- Brooks, G. (2001). Year of Wonders. New York, NY: Penguin Books.