This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, which reached me through the general enthusiasm of ladies-who-bookclub. Actually, a vague memory surfaces that it might have been passed to me by a magistrate with whom I was doing work experience. The novel created, for me, a curious looking-glass sensation, like going to a country where they speak your language but the geography and idioms and supermarkets are different and they don’t have newsagencies. It was much like that moment when, with the trepidation of the SF reader given chick-lit, you are reading Karen Joy Fowler and realise hang on, wait a minute, she’s one of us! Only in reverse.
Because the middle ages and black death and all their accoutrements are native language to fantasy readers, but this was historical/literary, and it… wasn’t my world. It was an alienating feeling – going into what felt familiar with the best will in the world, and finding unfamiliar ground. Or, in the end, ground that followed the shape of another genre, the endings of which never clicked with me.
So I cannot offer a useful commentary of the book at all. I dare say it was very good – it was certainly popular with people whose taste I respect. Probably I should read it again, with a decade of broadened tastes. But it was historical, which is a genre that often makes me feel cheated of reading histories, and literary fiction, which often makes me feel cheated of a satisfying conclusion. And then I found Connie Willis‘ Doomsday Book, and it was Just Right, and I was home.