Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Wonder - Emma Donoghue - stark and compelling

My thoughts

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue:

Nurse Libby has served under the great Florence Nightingale and experienced all the dreadful horrors that caring for injured soldiers under terrible conditions in the Crimea entailed.

Now working in a boring and unchallenging role as a nurse in a hospital, when she is offered a two week stint working in a family home in Ireland observing a young girl who will not eat and is reputed to have not eaten for 4 months, it seems like a cushy little number by comparison.

Employed to watch over the girl and ascertain whether she is hiding food and eating secretly, or discover if she is truly a wonder, a genuine miracle child. Lib is convinced the girl must be deceiving everyone somehow and feels she’ll uncover the fraud quickly and expects to find a deceitful and cunning child, but soon she grows to like her charge 11 year old Anna who nevertheless is harbouring a secret or two.

She gets to know a newspaper journalist staying in the small Irish town to cover the story and though they clash at first, they discover they both want the same outcome – to protect and help this child. As a protestant she is unable to accept the girls families unshakeable religious fervour and catholic beliefs which border on maniacal to an outsider.

The story is slow and insidious and got under my skin gradually. I really liked Lib and was rooting for her all the way. What I love about this author, is her huge diversity and versatility, she never writes the same kind of book twice and you never know quite what to expect, apart from being pretty certain you’re in for a rare old treat.

Several of her books are historical and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is waiting with bated breath for her to pen another Slammerkin. 

This new novel draws on the same historical research skills and ability to take you to another time and place and make you feel you live there. At first I felt a touch aggrieved that this lacked the bawdy lustiness of Slammerkin and the horrifying tension of Room, until I realised I was enjoying every word just as much as both these past titles and in Anna was a juvenile voice just as compelling as that of young Jack the narrator of Room.

How dreadful it must be to be as accomplished and revered an author as Emma Donoghue – bearing the load of responsibility and anticipation of your loyal readers. Well she has no need to worry, yet again she has created a masterpiece from a stark setting and peopled this world with wonderful characters and left me in awe of her talent and sobbing quietly in the corner.

Masterful and compelling this story bears its feet in historical facts, fasting girls who survived without eating, martyring themselves for the sake of a religion that has done them no favours in their short lives.

The Blurb

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

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