THIS is a book about a plague that hit a small village named Eyam in Derbyshire, England in 1666. Written from a maid’s perspective, Year of Wonders tells the story of a calm village turned chaotic as the plague that originated from London slowly spread across Eyam and killed almost everyone in its path.
Already a widow after only three years of marriage, Anna Frith worked as a housekeeper at the village’s rectory. She had two boys and her children were among the first ones to die from the epidemic.
The rector, Micheal Mompellion, and his wife Elinor led the community to take a stand in their fight against the plague; they chose to quarantine themselves and prohibited anyone from entering or leaving the village. Arrangements were made for the supply of food and other needs.
Anna and Elinor, who had bonded, prepared herbs and brewed concoction to help lessen the pains of those who were infected and created herbal ‘antibiotics’ to prevent others from the contagion.
Throughout the story, Anna had developed more skills than she had ever imagined. She took on the role of a midwife, became Eyam’s herbalist and even helped with mining to save a girl’s family land.
The plague penetrated into almost every household in Eyam. Villagers continued to pray with the rector but as they slowly fell into poverty, they begin to doubt their devotion to god but endured for the love of the rector. Unfortunately, witchery, witch-hunting, murder and madness had also surfaced and contributed to Eyam’s pandemonium. In the end the plague wiped out approximately two-thirds of the village’s population.
Later, Anna’s mentally unstable stepmother killed Elinor; an act which robbed the rector himself of his belief in religion. This sudden lack of faith led the rector to have a sexual affair with Anna.
At the end of the audiobook, the author gave a lengthy detail about her research in writing the novel. This foreword section of the book gives the listeners a chance to find out who her characters are based upon and of the actual events that had taken place.
Read by Josephine Bailey, the recording of the audiobook is 10 hours and six minutes long. Bailey’s reading is rather slow-paced but contrary to the general belief that such speed leads to boredom, I find that her pace matches the story, the sentiments and emotions; which run high throughout the book.
Overall, Year of Wonders is a brilliant listen as the story is well researched although the ending, despite being on a happy note, may not please all listeners. The audiobook is available from www.booksontape.com.