DAY 15. – A character who you can relate to the most.
The Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
I read a lot of thrillers/mystery fiction so I can’t say I relate to the victims, in those stories, but Anna in Geraldine Brook’s historical fiction novel: The Year of Wonders, grabbed my attention, for she is an extraordinary person.
Anna is a housemaid, who is in service to the village pastor in 17th century England. An infected bolt of cloth brings the plague to the village in 1664, and decimates the population. There are many important themes addressed in this book, as the Village Rector spearheads a campaign to quarantine the village, in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease, albeit via religious motives.
Anna, a servant of low class, shows intelligence, strength and resourcefulness in facing the catastrophe decimating her village. As the disease progresses, she does not succumb, physically or emotionally, but rather blossoms into a leader and heroine. She exhibits a keenness to learn, and it is her eagerness to attain knowledge that not only landed her the initial job with the Rector, but also facilitates her transition to independent survivor and healer in the novel. Those in authority whom she once feared, and kowtowed to, she feared no more.
The overriding message for me in this book is “Knowledge is empowerment” and it is for this reason I identified and liked the character of Anna. Knowledge and the attainment of knowledge, through education or informal learning, is of fundamental significance in improving the status of women in the world, especially so, in developing countries. And so it was for Anna.
I also felt this novel was also critical, well, perhaps suspicious, of the intentions of religion and Anna was someone that kept her options open, as her knowledge developed. “Perhaps the Plague was neither of God nor the Devil, but simply a thing in Nature … We could simply work upon it … knowing that when we found the tools and the method and the resolve, we would free ourselves …”
Anna personified the ideal that kindness will be rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically. As one reviewer puts it,
“The image of freedom, independence and escape from the past, from death and from convention is realized in a sequence of symbolic potency shortly after the plague fades away, when Anna, with no permission, takes charge of Mompellion’s great stallion, Anteros: “The wind rushed by, blowing off my cap and freeing my hair so that it blew out like a banner … We live, we live, we live, said the hoof-beats, and the drumming of my pulse answered them. I was alive, and I was young, and I would go on until I found some reason for it.” Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/neither-of-god-nor-the-devil-20130719-2q8du.html#ixzz3JHvKijXo
The novel is littered with old French and Middle English terms and this added to the book’s feel and authenticity. An interesting epilogue to the book is that the real Rector in the village of ‘Eyam’ sent his family away prior to quarantining the village, but his wife died anyway.
DAY 16. – Most thought-provoking book.
Something to Ponder About