So! I have been somewhat successful since 8th December in finishing some books from the currently reading stack. I’ve managed to finish the following books:
- Alan Bradley, A Red Herring Without Mustard.
- Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders.
- Adam Christopher, Hang Wire.
- Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness.
- Patricia A. McKillip, Alphabet of Thorn.
5/50. So I get £5 from my mother, woo! But, on the other hand, I’ve remembered a few books that I missed off the original list, and some that I’ve started since…
- Chris Wooding, Retribution Falls.
- Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells.
- Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds.
- Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising.
- James Renner, The Man from Primrose Lane.
So… we’re still running about even. And it’s about to be Christmas and I know I’m getting books, not to mention the books I’ve bought during the last few days (oops).
And let’s not even talk about the number of books I’ve started but also finished since I made that list. (Again. Oops.)
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
I read this for Bruce Holsinger’s historical fiction course on Coursera. It’s based on the true story of the village of Eyam, during the 1665 epidemic of plague in Britain, though Geraldine Brooks doesn’t stick too closely to the names and details of exactly what happened there, but rather tries to recreate the sense of it. For her own comfort, I think, even where she’s based her characters on real people, she’s taken them a step or so away from them so that William Mompesson becomes Michael Mompellion, allowing her to take greater liberties.
At times, it seems pretty melodramatic, to me. The whole situation between Michael and Elinor, for example, seemed completely unnecessary (and barely even seemed to make sense to me); sometimes it just seemed to pile too much into the story that on its own would’ve seemed to make sense. The ending was worse; it felt like a complete flight of fantasy beside the historically grounded, patiently explored situation in the village.
So… overall, parts of this are a very powerful exploration of the tensions and also the support in Eyam at the time, and of the faith and fear and superstition of the time. But other parts of it work against the simple, touching aspect that those things give the story. I know it’s fiction and flights of fantasy are all a part of it, but it didn’t feel right to me.