Study Guide

Year of Wonders Chapter 4

By Geraldine Brooks

Chapter 4

Rat-fall

  • The weather is lovely this September. The calm before the storm, as they say.
  • Anna is sitting by the river with her kids when Mr. Mompellion traipses up to them. He talks about how being in nature is a spiritual experience.
  • One day, Jamie and a neighbor boy named Edward Cooper are caught playing with dead rats. Yuck. Someone get these kids some video games; they're bored.
  • A few days later, Anna runs into Mem Gowdie, who's on her way to help Edward Cooper, who "is burning up with a fever" (4.27). Uh-oh.
  • Anna joins Mem on the trip, but Mem is turned away at the door. The family has hired a barber (a medieval-style doctor) instead. He has already covered Eddie in leeches. Oh, joy.
  • As the barber is leaving, Anna asks him if it could be the plague. He doesn't think so: Edward doesn't have any of the telltale signs.
  • But are giant growths on the neck a sign, Anna asks? The barber looks concerned and tells her not to call him back to this village again.
  • Edward dies that day. Tom, Anna's youngest son, gets sick soon after.
  • Anna is torn up with grief. She's criticized for this by her superstitious stepmother, Aphra.
  • Tom dies in Anna's arms.