Anna Firth is a widow in the village of Eyem. She works at the Rectory as a maid, but lodges a tailor for extra money. In 1666 he receives an infected bolt of cloth from London, and plague comes to Eyem. When the villagers are faced with the choice to flee the plague or stay in quarantine to prevent the plague from spreading, they make the surprising choice to stay.
The story is told from Anna's perspective about what happens to the villagers as they succumb to the plague. They start looking for someone to blame. Here we see the best and worst of humanity. Some people help their neighbors by nursing them while they are ill, sharing food, and helping with various chores. Others swindle their dying neighbors, accuse people of witchcraft, and some resort to killing their neighbors.
I reread this book for my Historical Fiction course. I have conflicting feelings about this book. I like that the story is based on real people and their experience with the plague. I really liked the examination of humanity. Brooks does not shy away from the depths the villagers were plunged to. I did think there was too much prose. While it was sometimes beautiful and perfect for the moment, it would go on too long and occur too often for my preference. I would find in these moments that my attention would start to wander, which is a shame because there is a lot of interesting material in this book. I would recommend trying this book, and seeing if it works for you. It should definitely be read at least once.