Introduction to Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders, A Novel of the Plague is the story of one woman’s journey through
the year of the Plague, 1665-66. The novel addresses a number of complex issues
and perhaps raises more questions than it answers. Brooks explores a full range of
human experiences and qualities – including our frailties, folly, wickedness and our
boundless compassion and humanity. The most basic human emotion, fear, and our
response to trauma and the unknown, are also examined by Brooks. The novel looks
at aspects of rebirth, regeneration and renewal.
Seventeenth century Britain, the time of the Restoration, was an era of significant
gains in scientific knowledge, particularly in medicine. King Charles II was a patron of
the sciences and helped found the Royal Society, a scientific association. One
debate that transcends the novel concerns questions about the forces of Nature in
opposition to the will of God.
The story of Year of Wonders is a fictional tale based on an historical event. The
Derbyshire village of Eyam is known as the Plague Village. In August 1665, the
plague is thought to have arrived in Eyam in a sealed package of material. The
package had arrived from London, where plague had been ravaging the city since
April 1665. Ultimately, it would kill 100,000 people, or 20% of the population in
London. The rector of Eyam instituted a number of measures to contain and control
the spread of the disease. These included having families bury their own dead,
moving Church services outdoors, and quarantining the village. In sixteen months,
some 250 people died of the plague in Eyam. Only 83 people in the village survived.
In Brooks’ fictional account of this event, Anna Frith, an eighteen-year old widow is
an invaluable narrator in the context of the novel. Anna is the heroine and
protagonist of the story. Her integrity as narrator is established at the outset. Her
position as servant at the rectory and part-time helper at Bradford Hall along with the