Thursday, August 30, 2007

"No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve." - Mercutio

A plague – or is it a pox (it’s a plague AND a pox – whatever did we do before Google?) on both your houses!*

After I finished Doomsday Book, I used my mad librarian skillz to track down some more plague fiction. (Historical, which leaves out fab plague books like Stephen King’s The Stand and Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain.) (And whatever did we do before WorldCat?)

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a terrific book. MUCH much better than Brooks’ dismally dreary and dull March; honestly you’d never believe the same author wrote them both. Maybe it’s just that the plague is much more exciting than the March girls’ father?

Red Noses - Peter Barnes. One of my favorite plays EVER. A disillusioned priest decides to combat the Black Plague with humor, assembling a troupe of misfits to wander the countryside ministering to the people. Scathing satire on the church, and the nature of man – brilliant stuff. (Just for the record, Barnes also wrote The Ruling Class, which was made into an incredibly disturbing movie, with an incredibly disturbed Peter O’Toole. Barnes clearly had his claws out for religion, but he does it so well.)

Boccaccio’s Decameron is sorta like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, only easier to read and set in Italy during the plague. It contains many stories, very loosely connected. A classic worth checking out.

THIS book by Susanna Gregory, A Plague on Both Your Houses, not only looks great, but is one of a series that looks fantastic. One reviewer compared it to the Brother Cadfael books. High praise indeed.

A little sci fi with your plague? Try Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim. Aliens invade medieval Germany, just before the plague strikes. Of COURSE they do.

The Trumpet Shall Sound - C. Worthington Murphy. The Plague approaches Sweden.

A Company of Fools - Deborah Ellis. The Black Plague invades YA fiction.

Years of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley Robinson. A fictional look at history without Europe, which was wiped off the map completely and thoroughly by the plague (yes, even more efficiently than in real life; conservative estimates put the actual mortality rate at fifty to seventy-five percent of all Europe).

Pestilence - William Roberts. A prize-winning Welsh novel. About the plague. And Arabs assassinating the king of France. Seriously.

Rumor has it that Ken Follett’s newest, due out in October, titled World Without End, is a sequel of sorts to the wonderful Pillars of the Earth and is set during the plague years of England. Worth keeping in mind.

And other titles that cropped up in WorldCat but which I can’t find to save my life.
Happy hunting, if you wish!

The Sower Went Forth Sowing - David Muckle
Year of the Death - Reuben Merliess/Merliss

I know there must be others; feel free to offer up titles. (Yes, I am talking to you people who made me read Doomsday Book to start with.)

*Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet, Act III, sc. 1.
I know you want to know.


--Deb said...

All in all quite . . . cheery . . . reading (grin). I'm just glad that I'm not the only one who found "March" so dreary. I hated it, and yet read so many raves, and wondered if I was missing something...

lazy cow said...

The only other one I've read is Havoc, in its third year by Ronan Bennett, but I think you didn't like it? I found it incredibly sad.

Suse said...

I couldn't even finish March. But am ready for a second reading of Year of Wonders.

After that huge list of feminism and fairy tales list, that is. And now all these plague books.

Sheesh woman.

Major Bedhead said...

Pillars Of The Earth is one of my all-time favourite books. I'm going to have to put the new one on my ever-expanding wish list.

David said...

We did Red Noses a few years ago. The review in the City Paper said "Director Jed Harris must have lost a bet..."

nutmeg said...

Still to read Pillars - long books are scaring me lately!

Joke said...

Apropos of nothing, I played Mercutio in high school.

No, please, be seated...