Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks' debut novel (she has since written March and People of the Book) follows two years in the life of a small English village (Eyam, Derbyshire). When an infected bolt of cloth carries the "seeds" of plague to Eyam in 1665, a visionary young minister convinces the villagers to quarantine themselves. In an effort to stop the spread of the contagion, the villagers sacrifice themselves and as the death toll begins to mount mistrust rears its ugly head.
The novel's narrator is a young widow named Anna Frith, one of the plague survivors. Anna is sympathetic and relatable despite the 300+ year time difference between readers and herself. Year of Wonders is the story of her village and its trials, but it is also the tale of her own self-awakening.
Year of Wonders is one of those rare books that is consistently strong throughout. My interest never waned and I probably would have finished it all in one sitting if I didn't make myself go to bed around midnight. I particularly liked the epilogue and how Brooks ties up things with our protagonist (it's unexpected and somewhat unrealistic, but perfect nonetheless). I also loved the afterword. Too often I start afterwords and never finish them because they aren't compelling and can be extremely anticlimatic after the end of a good novel. Brooks' afterword, however, was interesting and relevant and it added to my enjoyment and understanding of the novel.