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Old 12-30-2012, 08:42 PM   #8
caleb72
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Posts: 2,691
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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OK - I just finished.

I liked the book, but not quite as much as I thought I would.

I think it was a worthwhile experience, as I enjoyed the small diorama of a world I didn't know much about. The interplay between Puritanism, early medicine, witch-hunting/superstition and plague was quite fascinating to me. I enjoyed the main character to a large extent because she was my observer. I saw everything through her eyes and thus was grateful to her. However, I'm not really sure I really got to know Anna throughout this story.

I think Brooks created a cool distance between myself and the characters of this book. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it meant that I struggled to have any emotional response to characters or situations throughout the story. One of the reasons I was interested in this book was that I thought a very well-written book in a plague setting would be an immersive and emotional experience, but I didn't ever develop that level of commitment here.

That said, I did really enjoy the "slice of life" aspect of the book. The miners, the preacher, the terrible back-stories, the harshness. And I still found that I could admire Anna even if I didn't really connect with her.

About the ending. I agree that it was a bit "out there". However, it did make me think that I would rather enjoy a story like this as its own novel - the English miner's wife, escaping the plague and living in a Muslim community so far outside her experience.

So in the end, I was very interested in this novel as a depiction of a village beset by plague. The setting and the references to practices, attitudes and behaviours were all quite well written and fascinating. However, the actual characters and story didn't capture me as much as I believe it should have given the content.
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