Study Guide

Year of Wonders Mortality

By Geraldine Brooks

Mortality

Chapter 1

Since then, I've tended so many bodies, people I loved and people I barely knew. But Sam's was the first. (1.1.17)

Sam's tragic mining accident is Anna's first brush with death. Sadly, as she notes here, it will be far from her last. This passage also implies that Anna grows some sort of emotional resilience against the horror of death over time.

Chapter 4

I lay down beside him and drew him close. I pretended to myself that he would wake in the wee hours with his usual lusty cry for milk. (2.4.49)

The death of Anna's infant son is perhaps the hardest for her to deal with. It tears her up to see someone so pure and innocent suffer such an ignoble end. As we'll see, the deaths of both of her children have a profound effect on her and shape the woman she becomes.

Chapter 5

The Plague [...] blows fall and fall again upon raw sorrow, so that before you have mourned one person that you love, another is ill in your arms. (2.5.2)

The death rate in Eyam is astronomical; there isn't a family around that doesn't suffer from it. To make things worse, the villagers can only expect the number of tragedies to rise as the plague spreads. This has a brutal effect on their collective mental health.

Chapter 7

And, for an hour, in that season of death, we celebrated a life. (2.7.56)

There are some bright spots, thankfully. In particular, the successful delivery of Mrs. Daniels' newborn son shows that life always finds a way—to quote Jurassic Park's great Ian Malcolm.

Chapter 10

And then an odd thing. The panic drained away from me, and my mind filled up with images of my boys. (2.10.92)

Anna feels an incredible sense of serenity when she thinks that she's dying in the mine. Why might that be? If you ask us, it's because she feels like she'll finally find peace and be reunited with her sons.

Chapter 11

Approaching the ruined body was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. (2.11.86)

Although Anna has never had a good relationship with her dad, his death still affects her profoundly. This is due in large part to just how gruesome his death is. This is Saw-level stuff we're talking about.

Chapter 12

Whole houses stood empty; entire families gone from us and names that had been known here for centuries gone with them. (2.12.31)

Pretty heavy, right? The city of Eyam isn't seeing just a massive number of deaths; it's also seeing a complete upheaval of its sense of identity. Its history is literally being erased. For better or for worse, the village will never be the same again.

"We are become Golgotha—the place of skulls," said Michael Mompellion. (2.12.29)

Wow—that's pretty intense. For context, Golgotha was the hill where Jesus was crucified, according to the Bible. (It's also the name of our new doom metal band. We call dibs.)

Chapter 14

I did my habitual count of persons [...]. For the first time in almost a year, there was not one newly missing face. (2.14.3)

Could it be that the plague is finally...gone? After so much death and destruction, the villagers of Eyam don't know how to react once the Grim Reaper skips town. How are they supposed to go back to life as it was before?

But that is not to say there was no lightening in even the heaviest heart [...]. For life is not nothing, even to the grieving. (2.14.10)

Although the villagers of Eyam have been traumatized by their brush with death, that doesn't mean they don't appreciate life. As Anna rightfully observes, that's the only way humans can cope with such horrendous circumstances.