Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
This is my second book by Geraldine Brooks after Nine Parts of Desire, and the first fiction. I’d been tossing between Year of Wonders and People of the Books, but finally picked up this one after the nudge from Historical Fiction course I was following on coursera.org. After reading this, I am now a firm fan. I’ll be happy to read more of her books any time.
Year of Wonders tells the period in the village of Eyam, England, in the year of 1666. It was the only place apart from London that was hit by the plague, and the whole village decided to cut itself from the world to avoid spreading the plague further. The story is told from an unlikely hero of a housemaid of the village’s rector and his wife – a point of view that allows us to have a peek into the decision makers (the rector essentially) and the ordinary villagers.
Without giving anything away, the ending seemed slightly off in tone compared to the rest of the book, as if Brooks left the novel for a while before coming back to it to finish it. I wasn’t super bothered by it, just thought it was a bit odd. But apart from that, the writing is consistently quite wonderful.
The Sibyl – Pär Lagerkvist
The Sibyl is a really amazing, unexpected read. I didn’t have book set in Turkey to read while traveling in the country, so I opted to read this, as it is set in Delphi, Greece (the site which I went to last year). The narration has folk/fairy tale quality to it, and the premise is fascinating. The main character is an oracle priestess in the Apollo temple in Delphi, who fell into disfavor by god. Her tale is told to a wandering man who caught a glimpse of and in effect got cursed by Jesus. Sounds crazy? Yes. I was absolutely enchanted. I will definitely look fore more Lagerkvist’s books. Too bad many of them seem hard to find. It was the perfect book to read while traveling, as it was only under 150 pages, physically light, and the story has a good balance of being not too complex but stimulating enough.
Lagerkvist was awarded Nobel Prize of Literature in 1951. His most famous work was Barabbas – about the Barabbas who was chosen to be released instead of Jesus. It seems that a lot of his works are a weird mix of the old and the new religious beliefs, or the critiques of them. In any way, they seem thought provoking. His other famous book is The Dwarf, which I remember to have read good things about at Jackie’s. Another one I’m looking forward to reading.
End of 2013 and Beginning of 2014
These two books ended my reading journey in 2013. I picked up a good pace about half a year into 2013, and read the total of 19 books and 20 short stories. Not yet close to my golden reading year a couple of years back, but I’m feeling more positive about 2014. We’re only two weeks in and I have actually finished 4 books! It’s a good start for the year.
Where ever you are, hope you have a good reading year ahead!