It’s been quite a while since I last posted! I’ve been very busy but I’m back on track reading lots of books and getting ready to write more reviews! Hope you enjoy this one.
I was very excited to read The Wonder due to my love for the book Room, also by Donoghue, which I have read several times, and will probably read several more times (most likely when I have a pile of new books I should be reading…yes I have a problem). But, in all honesty, I struggled with The Wonder at first. Unlike Room, which immediately draws you in with the protagonist’s unique way of viewing the world, I found the Wonder really difficult to get into. I persisted because I feel like Donoghue has done the work to make me trust her as an author, but it felt like trudging though the mud a little at first. I must say though, whether my difficulty came from the story or my own prejudice about novels set too far in the past for me to feel immersed into the time zone, my hard work was rewarded.
The Wonder is an interesting book, inspired by the many cases of “fasting girls” reported around the world from the 16th to the 20th centuries. It follows Lib, a Nurse of the highest esteem, trained by Nightingale herself, who is brought in to witness one such case first hand, and attest to its legitimacy. Miracle spurred on by religious fervour? Or merely a rouse created by somebody close to the girl in question, in an effort to gain money or fame? Lib certainly leans toward the latter when she discovers her reason for employment, and as a reader discovering everything as she did, I was inclined to agree. I’d never heard of these “fasting girls”, so the concept was entirely new to me. As we meet the small girl, Anna, and her family for the first time, I greeted them with the same scepticism that Lib did, willing them to make a wrong move or mistake that uncovered the entire spectacle as nonsense. I think this is where Donoghue really pulled me in. The mystery that unfolds before Lib’s, and our eyes, plants seeds of doubt and intrigue into our minds, and spurs us on to investigate further. I wanted to get to the bottom of Anna’s story; this small and pious figure who is so determined to stick to her chosen, apparently religious course that she may even die for it
While on the face of it, The Wonder is described as a domestic, and historical drama, the themes run very deep, into history and suffering I have only known from the classroom. The time period Donoghue describes is so well researched and detailed, I felt like I was there, staring ahead into the bleak and dreary landscapes. Part of me wondered if this is why I struggled to get into the book, until I became attached to Anna, because of the bleak but accurate picture she had painted. It felt so real to me that I wanted to turn away from their difficult lives, if only because I was unable to do anything to help them. It’s because of that I felt an affinity with Lib, and began to actively agree with all her decisions, my only frustration being that I couldn’t yell at her to make them more quickly! I found Lib’s personal journey very interesting as well, as her clear-cut religious views suddenly became very vague and foggy when it came to the urgency and desperation of the situation she found herself. As with many of Donoghue’s characters, Lib’s depth and difficult background is slowly unveiled as the story goes on.
Once I got into The Wonder, it was a very interesting and exciting read. I would recommend it, but with a precursor to anyone as impatient as me: stick to it! You’ll be immersed before you know it, I promise!
Read more about the author here: https://www.emmadonoghue.com
The Busy Bookworm