A little bit about the book..
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.
My thoughts about the book..
I wasn't at all familiar with the phenomena of "fasting girls" and so, when I started to read Anna O'Donnell's story, I must admit that I was rather sceptical that such a condition could go unnoticed and unchecked.
On first encounter it would seem that eleven year old Anna is a sweet, religious fanatic who is caught up in her own piety, and yet, she also seems to be a reluctant bystander in her own life. I didn't warm to her character straight away, but then neither did I warm to the English Nightingale nurse, Lib Wright, who has been coerced, by necessity, into travelling from London, to rural Ireland in order to keep a close eye on Anna O’Donnell. Recently back from nursing in the Crimean War, Lib is at odds with the nursing profession back in England, so her employment by the parish authority, comes as a welcome change of scene. Determining the truth behind the notion that a child can survive for four months on nothing more than three teaspoons of water a day is a challenge that Lib fervently embraces with all the zeal that her nursing training under the indomitable Florence Nightingale can muster.
The story moves at a measured pace so that the interaction between Anna and her nurse is built up really, really slowly. Nothing much seems to be going on, and yet, imperceptibly, an air of malice starts to pervade, and after about a third of the way into the novel I started to become engrossed in the way the story was developing, and, believe me, by the end I had completely altered my original opinion of both Anna and Lib’s character.
The author has performed a real wonder of her own in bringing this story to life; there is much to take in. It’s the story of a family caught up in the shackles of religious fervour, it’s about the naivety of a troubled child whose innocent life has been disturbed by wickedness and it’s about the danger of narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Throughout the story what really shone through, for me, was the lyricism of the language, the detailed introspection of small town parochialism, and the extraordinary assumption , by ordinary people, that miracles can prosper in the most unlikely of places.
Listening to The Wonder via Audible gave the story an added dimension which I felt was totally different to reading the story for myself. The narrator, Kate Lock, has a real skill in portraying accents and she very easily slipped between Anna’s gentle Irish brogue, and Lib’s more stark English vowels.
It’s a long story to listen to, coming in at over 12 hours, but the narrator does such an excellent portrayal of the characters that it becomes very enjoyable to listen to her quiet rendition of this excellent story.
Best read with ..Earthy potatoes and heavenly poteen..
About the Author..
Emma Donoghue is the best selling author of several novels. You can find out more about her by visiting her website by clicking here or follow on Twitter @EDonoghueWriter
My thanks to the publishers and also to Audible.co.uk for the opportunity to listen to this narrated edition of The Wonder and also to Francesca at Midas pr.