An early book in the Inspector Lynley series. Although as long as the others it was less introspective and cracked along at a faster pace than some of the later efforts which made it much more engaging.
Year of Wonders tells the story of Anna, a young, widowed servant living in an English village in which the Plague is rampant in 1666. The village voluntarily isolates itself completely in the hopes that others will not be infected with the terrible disease and Anna and her employers, the Rector and his wife, help the villagers through the terrible year as best they can.
It is one of the most beautifully written stories I have read. Brooks' descriptions are so vivid and contain just the right amount of detail that I was able to picture the isolated, misty, dark village and could feel the emotions the villagers experienced. The terror they felt at facing such a horrible and, to them, completely incomprehensible event was palpable to me.
I loved the characters in this book: even the awful ones like Anna's father are beautifully described. Anna is not one-dimensional as so many heroines are: She has foibles and makes mistakes and becomes depressed as well as being an increasingly strong and competent human being. But the minor characters too are well-developed and utterly believable.
This book is not, as much historical fiction can be, an excuse to demonstrate the depth of the author's research skills. It is about people: what they think, what they do, how they react and what they learn. It is a fascinating and believable depiction of what might have been in 1666 in a world that began and ended within a few miles. A world in which 300 people became 200 in the space of a year. A world in which fear was a constant emotion.
I loved the rest so much I can even forgive Brooks the ridiculous and inconsistent last chapter.