Thursday, November 6, 2014

GERALDINE BROOKS: INSPIRED BY HISTORY



Author Geraldine Brooks grew up in Australia, attended Columbia University and worked as a journalist before beginning a writing career that brought almost immediate fame. Inspired by history, her historical fiction novels are anchored in reality but original in plot and characterization.  Brooks’ novels can be found on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.

Brooks’ first novel Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague is named for 1666. This is the story of Anna, a maid in a small English town who survives not only the bubonic plague sweeping the country, but also the ignorance, superstition and panic that envelop her neighbors. The author’s eye for detail and her elegant prose make this a compelling and emotional book.

Using Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women as a leaping point to tell the story from the father’s perspective is March. In the classic novel the females of the family await the return of Mr. March while he is away during the Civil War. In Brooks’ version the good father experiences the horrors and degradation of the slavery and war, while withholding the truth from his family. How is it to hit the literary jackpot for your second book? Ask our Ms. Brooks. March won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

People of the Book has an extremely creative premise. A rare book expert is asked to conserve an illustrated Hebrew manuscript created in 15th century Spain. Using the few clues found in the binding, she traces the journey of the book, and its guardians, as it leaves Spain and eventually travels to Sarajevo, where it is saved by a Muslim librarian.


Brooks again expands on history in her latest novel Caleb’s Crossing, based on the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Set in the 1600’s Martha’s Vineyard, young Bethia is a Puritan and Caleb is from the tribe that Bethia’s father wants to convert. Their friendship and cultural conflict is the center of this well-researched and heartfelt novel.

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