‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue
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, Emma Donoghue’s ‘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.
Every month, in an attempt to clear the back log of the TBR stack (by stack I mean book case!) I aim to read one book that I’ve had over six months, any one is welcome to join with this. Just link it back to me so I can see! My Clearing The Shelves choice for May was ‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue.
*Contains slight spoilers*
‘“If you won’t eat, child, you’ll die”’
Although this book is set in Ireland and I have an irrational, inexplicable dislike of things set in Ireland (I have no idea why!) I enjoyed this. The time period of the 1850’s is a favourite time period of mine and I love Emma Donoghue’s writing so that cancelled out the Ireland thing! There is a slight mystery element to the story which I absolutely relished – is Anna, the miracle girl, really a wonder? Has she really not eaten for four months? And why has she not eaten? Why are her family willing to watch this happen? I found myself gripped and eager to find out what the diddly was going on.
I loved Lib, the nurse sent to watch Anna, she’s a great character. Her relationship with Anna and how it develops is extremely touching. She fights for this young girl when everyone else around her is just happy for the fasting to continue. Sent to stay with this highly religious family, Lib struggles with their blind faith and ignorance. It’s her strong will and worry for Anna that sees her constantly clash with the family.
Anna, the wonder, is a frustrating character to begin with, but as we read on all you feel is sympathy. Refusing to eat because she believes she is surviving on ‘manna from heaven’, as a reader it’s quite tough to see her deterioration and also pretty anger inducing. Somehow this child has been made to believe she can survive on nothing by the people who should be looking after her.
Every book I read by Emma Donoghue is different from the last and I always enjoy them. This was a quick read for me, I struggled to put it down. Full of emotion, haunting and intriguing, this book had me under its charm from the get go.
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 4/5 STARS
‘The Wonder’ is available now in paperback published by Picador. With thanks to the team @PanMacNews for my copy.