Publish Date: 2001 Pages: 400
This has to be one of my most treasured historical fiction novels, hands down. I have always been fascinated by the 17th century plague and its effect on the populace, so I was very happy to have come across this piece. I have not read any of other Geraldine Brooks’ books, but have always heard good things about them (especially March).
The novel takes place in the very real village of Eyam in Derbyshire from 1665-1666. It follows the fictional villagers for 1 year while they isolate themselves from the outside world after the discovery of plague in their village. The plague arrives in clothes a traveler brought, so the villagers believe. Once it arrives it spreads like wildfire. The main character is Anna Firth, a widow, whose house the traveler stays at. She is a very kind woman, but did not seem like a strong character in the beginning. Of course that changes, but it takes some time. She along with a few other women are more rational than almost all of the male characters & hold the village together as best they can. The more I think about it, the more I realize this is a very feminist piece of literature. This novel definitely strips humanity to its core. Much like caged animals being poked with sticks, I was always amazed by the deranged things the villagers would do in their lunacy. Some of it was kind of hard to digest.
This novel is also very fast-paced. All of the things that happen in the span of 1 year will definitely stick with you after you are finished. The characters may be fictional, but the isolation they committed themselves to was real & genuine. If you love historical fiction, this novel is not to be missed!