The book I'm going to tell you about today is a departure from my usual reads. It's a historical novel. Occasionally, I will read historical novels - but generally they don't catch my eye when I'm looking for something to read. But on the recommendation of a friend I read this one.
by Geraldine Brooks
This novel is based on what happened when the bubonic plague struck Eyam, a small English village, in 1665. In an interview with Ms. Brooks it comes to light that there isn't much of a written record about that happened that year - not enough to create a non-fiction book. So her imagination took over.
Imagine, if you will, living back then - when the medical field was primitive at best. Living in a small village that has been hit by the plague. Imagine the terror - never knowing who would die next. Very few people who contracted the plague survived.
As was the way - the village was centered around the church; which meant that the rector was a powerful leader. When he suggested that the town should quarantine itself to keep from spreading the disease - most of the town agreed.
Word was sent to the surrounding towns and a system was set in place where the villagers could receive goods and pay for them without any contact. It was called the Boundary Stone. In this stone they dug out holes and filled them with vinegar. Then they would put coins inside the holes - they believed that the vinegar would cleanse the money - and leave a list of staples that were needed. When the villagers from Eyam left the stone - then the merchant from the other town would come to collect the lists and the money and to drop off supplies. This was the only "contact" they had with the outside world for an entire year.
As you can imagine people began to go a bit crazy. People were dying left and right. It was possible to fall ill in the morning and be dead by evening. Whole families were wiped out.
Some people were convinced that this was a punishment sent by God and felt that they must atone for their sins. Others claimed it was the work of witchcraft.
Others became extremely greedy and opportunistic. Taking advantage of their neighbor's plights.
While this book tells the story of the plague - there is also a story of great friendship. This thread of the story shows us what we can become if we have someone in our lives who believes in us.
The book is 308 pages long but is a fairly quick read as the author has done a great job fleshing out the characters and tells the story in a way that encourages you to read a bit more to see what happens next.
All in all it was a very good book. I didn't care for the ending - but I can understand why the author felt that was the way to end it.