I’ve talked about how many (most) of the books on my bookshelves are unread. Whether I’ve started them or have never opened them to the first page, there are many titles that call out to me to read them next, even as I bring a new book home from a bookstore or stack up my most recent library books. It can be overwhelming, sure, but…I don’t know where I was going with this, but what I do know is the four books featured in this edition of From My Bookshelf fall into that unread category.
Geraldine Brooks is an Australian journalist and novelist, and I have four of her books on my shelves. They are (in publication order):
Year of Wonders
Apart from being written by Geraldine Brooks, the summary of this novel completely convinced me to bring it home (thanks, Longfellow Books). A time period that I’m quite ignorant about (London, 1666) and an element of history I am familiar with (witch-hunting) combined with love and family – I’m in! Plus, I’m thankful to the person who donated it to the bookstore, because this is edition is signed by Geraldine Brooks herself.
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid named Anna Firth emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the plague year, 1666, 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. But as death reaches into every household, faith frays. When villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive, a year of plague becomes instead annus mirabilis, a “year of wonders.”
This novel earned Geraldine Brooks the 2006 Pulitzer Prize, but it’s actually the one I’m least excited to read (*shields self from boos and flying tomatoes*). I tend to distance myself from novels that are directly about the American wars I learned about every year from 5th-12th grade (please read this in my bitter tone), so if it wasn’t for the Little Women connection, I likely would have left this on the shelves of Quill Books & Beverage.
As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the 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. From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, Mr. March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. From vibrant New England to the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s novel. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks’s place as a renowned author of historical fiction.
People of the Book
This novel kicked off my Geraldine Brooks auto-buy streak, and as of today I’ve read about half of it. I bought this used copy during my visit to Powell’s Bookstore, and there’s no doubt that I cherish it all the more for that. Anyway, the tone of this book is both melancholy and driven, the pace is sort of quick but Geraldine Brooks’s tone makes the reader (me) savor the story. I don’t want many books to end, but I particularly want this one to go on and on. Cheers to weird relationships with books.
Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, has been offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding – an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair – she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries, ushering in its exquisite and atmospheric past, from its salvation back to its creation through centuries of exile and war.
The Secret Chord
My most recent GB acquisition, I found this at Sherman’s Bookstore, and since it had Geraldine Brooks written on the cover, I brought it home. The summary doesn’t intensely interest me, but I will open it someday.
Shimmering between history and legend, the biblical King David rose from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into a remorseful and diminished dotage. In The Secret Chord, we see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him – from the prophet Natan, voice of David’s conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks has won renown for bringing historical character vividly to life in stories of sweeping grandeur and timeless emotional truth, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power confirms her as one of our greatest contemporary novelists.
Are you a fan of Geraldine Brooks? Do you have a weird relationship with a certain book on your shelves (define weird in your own way)? Let me know below.