Last night Amanda invited me to attend a book launch with her, for Geraldine Brooks' new novel, "People of the Book".
It was a lovely evening, held at Shearers bookshop in Leichhart.
Amanda knew Geraldine and a few other people and caught up with them, while I:
1. tried not to look like I was staring at some of the notable authors and media personalities there,
2. resisted the wonderful array of books I would dearly have loved to have bought, (but did get a chance to drool over) and,
3. enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine.
Richard Glover launched the book with some amusing stories, and Geraldine signed copies of her book. We of course bought a copy each.
As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the American Civil War, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history.
From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war leaving his wife and daughters. To evoke him, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
In Brooks’ telling, March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body, and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through.
From the vibrant intellectual world of New England and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s tale and portrays the moral complexity of war, a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism, and by the temptations of a powerful forbidden attraction.
And "Year of Wonders" is a fantastic read.
This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the “Plague Village,” tucked in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to the isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes the reader follows the story of the plague year, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love.
Exploring love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of science and religion to interpret the world at the cusp of the modern era, Year of Wonders is at once a story of unconventional love and a richly detailed evocation of a riveting moment in history. Like Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and A. S. Byatt’s Possession, Year of Wonders blends learning and romance into an unforgettable read.
I am now looking forward to reading this new one.