Four star review, originally posted here on April 26, 2019.
So my favorite author is Tony Horwitz, and when I heard his new book was coming out, I took a look at his website in hopes of a book tour, and from there I learned that he’s married to another author names Geraldine Brooks. “Huh,” I thought, “If she’s awesome enough that my hero married her, she’s probably pretty fucking awesome,” so I looked her up. And I saw that she had a novel based on Eyam, a place that captured my imagination, too, when I visited it years ago, so I started there. And holy shit, I was not wrong about Brooks…
I LOVED THIS BOOK! I feel like it was written just for me! I’ve been on an almost year-long drought of not hitting any major page-turners (that time frame even includes a Horwitz book, FWIW). Then this came along and I eagerly sucked up every page. At first I thought that maybe this book would be too… not sure of the word I’m looking for, but maybe light? Innocent? PG-13? Like a Hallmark movie? “Aw, I’m a sweet naive churchgoing young lady who tends to her sheep and is easily scandalized,” etc. Especially with a sweet-sounding title like “Year of Wonders.” Like a beach read you’d share with your grandmother. NOPE. This book is not afraid to go dark. And believe me, it goes HELLA dark. Brooks isn’t afraid to go way over the top. Can you imagine something bad or gross? Great, it’s probably already in this book. Talk about entertaining.
So… why not five stars?
This was tough. From a purely personal enjoyment standpoint, I’d go 5 stars easy. But there were definitely times where things would go just a bit over the top crazy, and I’d think “Oooh, this is really too much… but I’m entertained so I’m ok with it even though I wouldn’t be so forgiving with a different novel.” But then the ending comes along. And shit just goes so far off the rails I can’t really salvage it enough for 5 stars. We hit a couple potential ending points, all with various degrees of satisfaction or believability, and then… it just keeps going. and going. and going. and shit gets wacky of totally off point. The epilogue is a whole other novel’s worth of story where entire potential chapters are crammed down into single sentences, and none of it really relates to the plague village story we’d all tuned in to read. So… yeah, all Brooks (or her editors) had to do was chop that part off, and we’d be golden. My only other criticism, a minor one I alluded to before, is a title change. “Year of Wonders” just somehow doesn’t fit for me at all.
Still, like I said, I personally LOVED it. Great story, and engaging writing from a talented author whose other works I very much look forward to exploring.
(Also, I’d give my right nut to have starstruck dinner with this literary family, cuz I envy their talent so. And I don’t even have nuts- I’d find a magical way to grow some just so I could give one away for this experience.)