The Wonder (Emma Donoughue)

I will admit to not knowing where to start with this review. I’ll start by saying that it was an extremely good book, about family, religion, morality and the truth. It was tense, it was hard in some places, I genuinely got attached to the characters and sometimes got annoyed with the main character. It was a very good book. But it’s incredibly hard for me to formulate a sensible response. I don’t mean to imply I usually give sensible responses, I think by and large my responses tend to be insensible gushing. But this is one of those awkward books where I didn’t love it with my heart and soul, neither did I hate it. That and the fact I really don’t want to give anything away because it might ruin the story really.

Lib is an English nurse, trained by Florence Nightingale herself. When an eleven-year-old girl stops eating, and appears to be miraculously subsiding on nothing but water, a religious fever takes hold of her village. To investigate whether the girl and her family are frauds, an English nurse and a nun take up a twenty-four-hour watch over the little girl. Full of scepticism about this supposed “miracle”, Lib meets a bright young girl, and a journalist hungry for a story.

It’s a psychological thriller based on the numerous Northern European and North American stories about “the fasting girls” who seem to stop eating and remain alive and well, with a healthy dosing of religion, religious conflict and downright bitchiness from Lib. Lib has one heck of a superiority complex when she first arrives in Ireland, into the tiny little village where the miracle girl, called Anna, lives. She thinks she better because she’s English, she’s a Nightingale trained nurse, she’s not Catholic (or really all that religious full stop). She doesn’t seem happy to be in Ireland in the first place and it all goes downhill.

Like any good thriller, there’s the guessing who’s telling the truth before deciding that everyone is a liar except the main character, but even then you have to be careful because Lib can be incredibly prejudiced most of the time. She is there to do a job, but she can’t help getting involved because Anna is so sweet and then she’s determined to find out the truth. It’s all shadows and rumours and zeal and belief. It’s basically all about belief.

It’s incredibly good, very well written, very suspenseful and the characters are kinda hateful which I suppose is the whole point of a thriller main character so all is good. I think this one would be hard to do as a movie, unlike Room, so I hope they don’t put it on the silver screen. I think a lot will be lost in translation.

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