We have looked at the first chapter – which chronologically occurs towards the end of the text, and discussed some of the reasons why Brooks might choose to structure her novel in this way.
We see a lot of characters interacting with each other in ways that are quite different to the next chapter, demonstrating how much they have changed during the time of the plague. Brooks has taken her time here to describe the desolation of the garden that Elinor cared so much for – this reflects the desolation of the village and the characters – particularly Mompellion whose despair is so evident here. Anna (our narrator) is stoic, and is keeping things afloat. Her caring nature is evident in her attempts to assist Mompellion and also in her care for his horse Anteros. However, she refers to herself as a servant and you have all picked up on the fact that her behaviour does not at all resemble that of a servant. This foreshadows the tremendous journey (that ‘Year of Wonders’) the reader is about to see Anna embark on.
Chapter Notes: Ring of Roses
Refers to children’s rhyme supposedly about the plague. Certainly echoes the plague sores that are found on George Viccars body during this chapter.
The chapter ironically begins with Anna saying that the last winter – when her husband died – was the most difficult she had lived. No-one expected this plague. We examined the burgeoning relationship with George which is cut short by his illness. We see Anna’s passion for her children (challenging God’s edict that none be placed before him) and her desire to be with a man again. We learn a lot about the lives of women in puritanical society in this chapter, and how Anna is already different from them.
`Chapter Notes: The Thunder of his Voice
Meaning of the title becomes apparent in the very last page of the chapter. Has a religious resonance. We are introduced to Anys Gowdie in this chapter – a woman quite unlike those of her time. Anna feels drawn to her and changes many opinions in discussion with her, showing us how unusual Anna herself is for a woman of the time.
Anys reveals her affair with George and his intentions to Anna.
There are no deaths in the chapter – but the plague is discussed at the dinner at the Bradfords where Anna is serving. Anna goes home and checks her boys – both appear unafflicted.
Chapter Notes: Rat-Fall.
Obviously modeled on Leaf-Fall, what is the meaning of this chapter title?
It begins with glorious descriptions of nature – the people believe they have contained the plague. Anna plays with her children and interestingly, Mompellion enters the picture. Very Garden-of-Eden-esque. Anna is uncomfortable around him. This stands in stark contrast to what we are about to experience. The boys playing with the dead rats is ominous.
The weather soon changes, and Anna remarks on the insects biting her boys. She longs to talk with Anys and begin to see the world in ways that she does.
One of the boys playing with the rats starts showing symptoms. Mem Gowdie is sent away as they fetch a physician. The physician flees from the plague. Anna’s baby Tom dies during the chapter. Aphra scolds her for doting in him – she has lost many babes herself. She tells her it is folly to love them until they are walking and talking. It is clear that the plague has struck the town.
Chapter Notes: Sign of a Witch
Anna compares the plague to the falling of a whip that continues to strip a man’s back on p. 81. We learn that her elder son Jamie passes away even as he is still grieving for his brother. Anna tries a number of remedies to soothe or cure Jamie which must have been common at the time, to no avail. In fact, they seem to make things worse. It is only Anys who is able to soothe him – she promises Anna prophetically on p.84 that her arms wont be empty for long.
Mompellion comes to pray for Jamie and Anna “hears the words as if far away”. P.86...