Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks tonight.
This may not be the type of book you say you "liked" or "enjoyed" reading. With one misfortune after another, many of us found ourselves wondering why it wasn't called "year of miseries".
I guess you'd have to expect the story of Black Death visiting a small countryside village in 1666 to be dark. The prose was a bit purple in places and the dialogue was oddly stilted in others. What made it a compulsive read was the plot - full of bizarre twists and side stories: mines collapsing, witches burning, babies birthing, madness, torture, and 2/3 of the village dying off in less than a year. A bit of a soap opera, really. However, much of it is based on recorded facts.
In this first novel you can see the talent that would go on to win the Pulitzer for her second novel, March.
My favourite part was the twist, near the end, when things take an unexpected and bizarre turn. It seemed the author was about to succumb to Harlequinn Romance with our heroine ending up in her lover's arms, living happily ever after. Instead he turns out to harbour some deeply disturbing attitudes that cause Anna to abruptly break things off. Run, girl, run! The vicar's celibacy has turned him into a bit of a weirdo... or maybe his weirdness turned him to a life of celibacy. Yikes!
Some felt the author stretched the truth a bit too far by sending Anna off on her journey to the Middle-East with a wet nurse, living amongst Muslims, and picking up Arabic to the extent she was able to read scientific works well enough to inform her practice obstetrics. Ah, yes, historical fiction.