November 26, 2004
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks: the story of a English village that decides to quarantine themselves due to the bubonic plague in 1666.

As the story begins, we meet Anna Frith. She is the housemaid for the rectory in a small Derbyshire village. The year before, in the Spring of 1665, a tailor inadvertently brought the plague to the town on an infected bolt of cloth. People begin to sicken and die, causing Michael Mompellion, the rector, to propose a plan to the townspeople.

His plan is that the town seals itself off from the rest of the world (aided in part by a local earl who is willing to give them with supplies) so that they don’t spread the disease. However, this means that those that are healthy now run the risk of possibly getting sick in the future.

Despite the fact that the most prominent family in town decide to flee, everyone else stays. As more and more of the townspeople get sick, a friendship between Anna and the rector’s wife Elinor grows as they try and battle the disease. This complicates the feelings that, after the plague has just about run its course, are starting to develop between Anna and Michael, leading to an ending that I never expected.

The novel is actually historical fiction, inspired by the English town of Eyam, making it easy to feel like you’ve been transported in time and are experiencing what life for those townspeople must have been like.

I truly loved this book. I found the story to be many things: sad (Anna’s longing for her children and the time she could have spent with George Viccars was heartbreaking), courageous (the towns willingness to sacrifice themselves to help stop an outbreak), inspiring, and just downright interesting.

My only problem is with the abruptness of the novel’s conclusion. Most of it was told as a flashback to the time of the plague’s outbreak, so when we get back to present time, there’s very little of the book left. Considering what we find out about certain things, I would have appreciated Brooks taking more time to deal with these revelations.

All in all, though, I found it to be an engrossing read with characters that I really cared about, making me want to find out what would happen to them as the plague decimated the town. I also enjoyed seeing a woman gain indepence and self-reliance in a time when it was rare for so many. Definitely well worth reading.

November 22, 2004
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire: The Wizard of Oz, told from a different viewpoint from what we’re used to, that of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba.

When our story starts off, we’re treated to the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, swooping down on her broom to spy on Dororthy Gale and her group as they discuss her origin. The majority of the book is then told as a flashback, beginning with Elphaba’s mother getting ready to shortly give birth to her.

Honestly, I don’t feel like recapping the entire story, so I’m not. I liked about the first half of the book, but once Elphaba left for the Vinkus, I really felt like the story bogged down. Up until then, it had been interesting with political discourse, love affairs, and interesting characters. After that point, however, it seemed to just drag on and on with no real purpose.

Once the final events leading to Elphaba’s death start to get put in motion, I felt like they were very haphazad and didn’t relate well and were just rushed to finish the book up. The whole part about a possible conspiracy drawing the lives of the three witches together also never set very well with me.

I’m torn whether I would recommend this book or not. Ultimately I found it disappointing, but so many people really love it that it might be worth your time to read.