Daniel Defoe's - A Journal of the Plague Year - Being Observations or Memorials of the Most Remarkable Occurences as well Publick as Private which happened in London During the Last Great Visitation in 1665 - is one of the most difficult to read books, that I have ever picked up.
The subject matter itself is depressing - The Great Plague of 1665, the Language is a huge strain to read. And to compound it all, Defoe meanders, repeats himself, goes back and forth and his narrator HF is an irritating character.
However, because of Defoe's reputation as the founder of the English Novel, this Journal of a Plague Year is found on every must-read list compiled by newspapers and academic institutions, which I suspect is the only reason for its continuing sales.
I do admire Defoe for his actual novels - Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders among them, but the Journal inspite of all its literary significance, is most definitely not an easy read.
It definitely has its plus points : an eye for detail, a rich view of life in the 1660's for the merchant and the working classes and a perceptive eye for observation.
But the novel is also rambling, digressive, contradictory & repetitive. There are no sections, no chapters and the Death Bills are terribly depressing.
Since Daniel was only 5 during the plague, it is supposed that this book is based on the diaries of his uncle Henry Foe (HF). However, while he makes liberal use of statistics (The Death Bills) throughout the book, they seem to be made up for the most part.
It was this use of statistics, that had this book initially classified as Reportage and was accepted as the truth until the 1780's and eve had some people believing it as fact until the early 19th Century which should attest to the fact, that he accomplished what he set out to do.
However, this is not a book that I would recommend to anyone, unless the subject matter is extremely appealing to you.