Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a multimedia review

*Fair warning* This novel is about the plague, so it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that people die. Even so, the following images hover dangerously on the border of spoiler territory. If that’s gonna piss you off, I suggest you read only the captions…

Your sample of passages, made misty and nostalgic with the help of Instagram:

A description of 17th century London - and a taste of the astounding turn of phrase that Brooks' uses so effortlessly throughout this wonderful book. (p.27)

A description of 17th century London – and a taste of the astounding turn of phrase that Brooks’ uses so effortlessly throughout this wonderful book. (p.27)

It is a story about the Plague.  You know this moment is coming from the opening pages of the book but that does nothing to prepare you for the shock when it happens. (p. 76)

It is a story about the Plague. You know this moment is coming from the opening pages of the book but that does nothing to prepare you for the shock when it happens. (p. 76)

And yet Brooks somehow writes about the loss in a way that is at once beautiful and heartrending. (p. 78)

And yet Brooks somehow writes about the loss in a way that is at once beautiful and heartrending. (p. 78)

The plague lays blows like the lashing of a whip - falling upon raw sorrow before you have even had time to time to mourn the last... (p. 81)

The plague lays blows like the lashing of a whip – falling upon raw sorrow before you have even had time to time to mourn the last… (p. 81)

The Rector makes a case for what he sees as the only honourable response to the coming of the plague: to close the town gates and to stay put.  Overcoming the compulsion to flee for one's own life, he believed, was a selfless act which would halt the spread of the plague and save the lives of others and the earn the blessings of the Lord.  But will this act prove to be the rector's own undoing? (p. 106)

The Rector makes a case for what he sees as the only honourable response to the coming of the plague: to close the town gates and to stay put. Overcoming the compulsion to flee for one’s own life, he believed, was a selfless act which would halt the spread of the plague and save the lives of others and the earn the blessings of the Lord. But will this act prove to be the rector’s own undoing? (p. 106)

Upon learning of her father's death, Anna struggles to come to terms with the paradox of her feelings; grief and relief.  How familiar these words must be to any child who has suffered at the hands of his/her parents or were neglected in childhood. (p. 210)

Upon learning of her father’s death, Anna struggles to come to terms with the paradox of her feelings; grief and relief. How familiar these words must be to any child who has suffered at the hands of his/her parents or were neglected in childhood. (p. 210)

And now, to ponder the plague in verse: “A Litany in the Time of Plague” by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601):

A Litany in the time of plague, by Thomas Nashe

ADIEU, farewell earth’s bliss,
This world uncertain is :
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly :
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us !

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health ;
Physic himself must fade,
All things to end are made ;
The plague full swift goes by :
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us !

Beauty is but a flower,
Which wrinkles will devour ;
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
Dust hath closèd Helen’s eye :
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us !

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave,
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds ope her gate.
Come, come, the bells do cry,
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us !

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny ;
Heaven is our heritage
Earth but a player’s stage,
Mount we unto the sky :
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us !

Read the original here

Finally, some fitting music from the renaissance period:

“Have Mercy upon me O God”, by the leading English composer of his generation, William Byrd (1540 – 1623).

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