In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, 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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Have you read Emma Donoghue’s Room, or seen the Academy award winning film based off of that book? I haven’t indulged myself in either of these yet, but I did recently read Donoghue’s, The Wonder, and I could not put it down.
Set some years after the Crimean War, this story unfolds within the confines of a thatch-roofed home, in a small Irish village, haunted by poverty and intense religious superstition. The setting of the novel evokes an atmosphere of beauty, mysticism, and despair– a strange and compelling combination.
The narrator of the story is a bold Red Cross nurse, named Lib, with brains and cynicism to spare. Trained under Florence Nightingale, Lib is called on for her special skills to determine if a nine-year-old self-proclaimed saint, who claims to survive off of ”heavenly sustenance”, is the real thing.
The characters are concentrated doses of the culture, mannerisms, attitudes, and beliefs you would expect from late nineteenth-century Irish folk. The majority of the story is concentrated even further between the nightly conversations between Lib and Anna, and Lib and her own mental meanderings.
In short, this story is a superfast read. Each chapter begs you to continue to the next as the story plants red herrings and grows more complex by the page. It is an intimate story that forces you to ask yourself what you would do or believe in Lib’s position. Overall, I recommend this book to any historical fiction or psychological suspense fan who is looking for a story with a deep and fast hook. The only minor dislike I had was for the much too tidy ending.
Have you read The Wonder or The Room? What did you think?
Just for fun:
Here is a short video on Florence Nightingale and the advent of modern nursing:
And here is a fun, 1940s video aimed at women entering the workforce as nurses:
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