All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂
Title: The Wonder
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Ireland
Date published: September 2016
Page Count: 291
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.
Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.” (Goodreads)
The Wonder is told from the perspective of Lib Wright, an almost thirty year old woman widowed after just one year of marriage. She’s a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale (a real person, founder of modern nursing). Lib is an English woman, not impressed by the conditions of the rural Irish town where Anna O’Donnell lives. The O’Donnell family claim that Anna hasn’t eaten for four months. Lib and another nurse, Sister Michael, have been recruited to watch over Anna twenty-four hours a day to ensure the validity of Anna’s fast. Lib and Sister Michael are working for a seemingly unintelligent doctor named Dr. McBrearty. Anna claims she doesn’t need food because she lives on “manna from heaven”.
In University I completed a few courses about Irish history and culture and quite enjoyed the Irish dialect and cultural references in this story. My favourite character is Lib’s romantic interest, William Byrne, a journalist correspondent for many English papers. The Wonder made me laugh, cry, and feel an insane amount of anger, particularly towards Anna’s family (wish I could slap her mother in the face).
Lib’s annotations of Anna’s daily vital signs were an extremely effective technique to help increase the reader’s concern for Anna and was an important piece of this psychological thriller. The plot starts with a slow heartbeat, but by the end my heart was pounding along with Anna’s.
The lengthy chapters create a slow pace for a thriller. I felt quite annoyed by the main character Lib. She’s irritated by just about everything and everyone, and I didn’t feel like she changed much throughout the story.
The Wonder is a thought-provoking, atmospheric, emotional Irish historical mystery. This is a quick, easy read that will leave you feeling satisfactorily disturbed.