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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
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The Wonder (2016)

by Emma Donoghue

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» See also 87 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
Really 3.5 stars, not as good as Room, but still enjoyable, though it dragged at points and could definitely have been tightened up. What was going on became obvious way before it should have. ( )
  jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
Digital audiobook performed by Kate Lock.

In August 1859 a report of an 11-year-old girl who has lived without any food for four months is causing quite the sensation. Is she a fraud? Could she be a “living wonder”? The town physician proposes a scientific watch, employing two nurses unknown to the town to carefully watch over the child for a period of two weeks. One is a nun, Sister Michael; the other a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth “Lib” Wright, a 25-year-old widow.

Lib is the narrator and she struggles to understand the family, the town, the physician, the priest, and most importantly, Anna, the child she’s been hired to watch. Lib is English, and an Anglican. She’s unfamiliar with the beliefs of the Catholic Church and finds it difficult to understand the Irish brogue at times. She views the family, and villagers, as ignorant and superstitious. But she sets out to methodically observe and record Anna’s condition and, in order to do so, she also tries to gain the girl’s confidence. Her medical training tells her that it is not possible for anyone to live without any sustenance. And as the week passes, she notes the child’s deterioration. As the nurse’s eyes are opened to what has happened in the family and how Anna perceives her fast in terms of her religious beliefs, Lib’s personal mission changes from one of pure scientific observation to trying to save this girl’s life.

Her eyes are opened initially by a journalist who has traveled to the village to report on the phenomenon, or more accurately to unveil the fraud. William Byrne befriends Mrs. Wright and finagles a way to casually meet Anna, “just to see for myself.” And what he sees is a child starving to death. The question is “why?”

And the only person who can answer that is Anna (and perhaps her mother). Anna may not have much education, but she is clearly intelligent and curious and learns quickly. She seems to be a quick judge of character and I really enjoyed the conversations between Lib and Anna. But Anna is so steadfast in her faith, in her beliefs in the redemptive power of prayer, that getting to the underlying truth of what led her to undertake this fast is difficult at best. I was as stunned as Lib to discover Anna’s secret, and furious with her mother and her priest for colluding to keep it a secret.

In the course of the novel Donoghue explores issues of faith, belief, guilt, abuse, family dysfunction, social mores and the role of the Roman Catholic Church and her priests in protecting (or not) children. I had to remind myself a few times that the time frame of the work is the mid-19th century. Definitely a thought-provoking book, and I think it would result in a great book-group discussion.

Kate Lock does a fine job of voicing the audiobook, however …. Her Irish brogue is so thick in places that I had difficulty making out the dialogue. Thank heavens I had the text available. Despite Lock’s skill as a voice artist, I do not recommend listening to this book. ( )
1 vote BookConcierge | Aug 22, 2018 |
This was a very interesting read! Based on actual cases that took place in many countries over several centuries, the storyline revolves around a young girl who has been fasting and thriving for months.
Set in a small Irish town in the 1850's, the story takes place through the eyes of Lib, a Florence Nightingale -trained nurse, who is hired to objectively monitor the young girl, Anna, taking shifts with a nun/nurse with whom she is forbidden to discuss the case.
Lib has no knowledge of the circumstances of her hiring, and she is shocked to find why/where and for what purpose she has been hired. She is completely convinced that the "fast" is a fraud and she is determined to prove her hypothesis. As the story progresses we watch as Lib's attitudes about her patient, religion, Ireland and herself evolve. It is a gradual process and not much really happens, the story is about how Lib learns, grows and opens her mind and her heart.
I found the story fascinating, more so because it was based on true accounts. The character development is handled extremely well, it all feels realistic and nothing is rushed nor forced. One gets a true sense of the hold the Church had on the community and how this appeared to a non-believer. Prejudices and class differences are addressed, and handled deftly.
My only quibble was a weird issue with names at the end, I found it jarring and could not understand it at all. Otherwise, Donoghue has done it again! Could not put this book down! It would be a fantastic choice for Book-Club discussions! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
The story of The Wonder is told by Lib, a nurse, who’s been charged to simply watch a little girl, Anna, who claims to not have eaten in four months - a miracle! Lib watches for days without finding any evidence of Anna eating or being fed. But things aren’t quite as they seem, and there’s a lot more going on with Anna than meets the eye. Events unfold, time starts to run out, and Lib finds herself standing on the precipice - should she act?

So, I stayed up late to finish reading this one. For me, I was hooked. Donoghue strategically sprinkled a trail of breadcrumbs from the very beginning for the reader to follow, and I fell for it immediately. I was also surprised to be confronted with questions of faith: faith doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. It can be misguided and harmful or fuel hope in things unseen and give renewed life. Who is the wielder, and what is their motivation? So much to think about (and still pondering), but I really enjoyed it! ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Jul 31, 2018 |
''...and besides, we should speak nothing but good of the dead.''

For me, The Wonder was one of the most anticipated novels of the year. It ticked all the right boxes: Ireland, Florence Nightingale's nurses, ambiguous religious issues, provincial superstitions. So, once it knocked on my door, I started reading it immediately.

We find ourselves following Lib, a young, educated nurse, trained by the legend called Florence Nightingale, to beautiful, mystical Ireland and on a strange mission, a few years after the Crimean War. Lib has to certify as to the truth about Anne, a girl of eleven, who claims to have stopped eating for four months. What is bizarre is the absence of any visible consequences of her abstinence. Upon her arrival, Lib finds that the child has become a local legend, almost elevated to the status of a saint.

Initially, Lib may come across as not particularly likeable, since she shows clearly that she regards Anne and all those who surround her as frauds. However, I don't believe we should accuse her of being narrow-minded. Let us not forget that she is a woman whose true religion and vocation is Science, and sometimes, scientists can become as obnoxious as religious fanatics. Still, Lib is not the only watcher of Anne. A nun, sister Michael, has also been appointed the task. This is a very interesting interaction that helps us see how Donoghue demonstrates the gap between Religion and Science. The nun is silent and under close scrutiny by Lib. A third character that is interested in the case is Mr. Byrne, a young journalist of The Irish Times, who seems to share Lib's disbelief and cautiousness towards the ''wonder'', despite the fact that he is a Catholic.

What draws the readers' attention, initially, is the eternal battle between Science and Religion, Faith against Logic, Hope against Evidence. And then, we stay for the characters who are realistic, each anchored to their own set of beliefs and ways of life. Lib comes to a point where she starts considering that perhaps science can't explain everything. She is not obnoxious, but confident in her knowledge and her abilities, and brave enough to stand for what she believes in an environment that slowly becomes paranoic. Anne is an extraordinary character. It is a rare case in adult fiction that we see such a strong child heroine, and Anne is the heart of the novel. A gentle human being, firm and devoted to her belief, kind and caring for kin and strangers alike. She wants to understand and Lib is her guide.

Emma Donoghue's writing is a work of Art. She weaves a delicate veil to hide themes and clues, all in a language that is simple, but rich and beautiful. Her descriptions of the Irish vilage are vivid, the characters and the dialogue are parading right in front of our eyes, we feel we are a part of the small community as we see it through Lib's confused eyes.

It is extremely hard to write a review without spoilers. This is true for every book, but especially for
The Wonder, as the mystery that permeates the case never loses its tension. My heart was pounding towards the final pages, it took all my strength to resist reading the end right there and then. Visit after visit, day after day, I was trying to guess Anne's secret, the community's Lib's. Folktales and superstitions add to the haunting atmosphere of the story. The fairies, the bogs with their mystical capacity to preserve the dead bodies, the religious hymns that are ever-present in Anne's household...

This is a novel that stays with you for many reasons. The story, the characters, the writing. The Wonder allows us to judge it by its beautiful cover, and the result is to be remembered as one of the finest examples in recent Literature. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
Historical fiction can give us rare insight into lives we might never have imagined, beliefs we could not otherwise have understood. The believability is what engages us, and this requires that a story retain some of the mysterious quality of real life: the inexplicable suffering, the ineffability. The Wonder wanders away from this and into the realm of happy-ever-after. In this it is not so wondrous after all.
 
After making my way through several recent novels written in tiresome hey-look-at-me prose (Emma Cline’s “The Girls” comes to mind), “The Wonder” arrived as a welcome relief. Donoghue’s prose is as sturdy and serviceable as a good pair of brogans, but never nondescript...After making my way through several recent novels written in tiresome hey-look-at-me prose (Emma Cline’s “The Girls” comes to mind), “The Wonder” arrived as a welcome relief. Donoghue’s prose is as sturdy and serviceable as a good pair of brogans, but never nondescript..Even less palatable is the distracting romance Donoghue loads onto the second half of her tale..These are flaws, but not fatal ones. For the most part, “The Wonder” is a fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner (I use the phrase without shame).
 
Emma Donoghue leaves little to Wonder about in the plot of her latest novel..Clever and seductive as its premise is, the novel is ultimately marred by the explanatory overwriting that has sometimes affected Donoghue’s work in the past. Donoghue’s prolificacy extends not just to books (she’s written nearly 20) but to the page: cudgel-like repetition is too often used as a means of emphasis. That, combined with too many ponderous nudges and winks, means there’s little we don’t see coming from early on. Plot-wise, there’s little to wonder about in The Wonder.
 
Part mystery, part supernatural thriller, part meditation on religious fundamentalism, Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder serves questions in triplicate about this very matter, through the mind and body of an 11-year-old Catholic girl who does not eat and yet continues to live.....The Wonder rides high on the acclaim of Room – which explored the lives of Jack and his mother as they lived in captivity in a shed belonging to the man who raped and kidnapped her as a teenager – and shares in its many themes. In Room, the pair lives in a claustrophobic physical space, but also a spiritual one that at times makes it a difficult read..The Wonder rides high on the acclaim of Room – which explored the lives of Jack and his mother as they lived in captivity in a shed belonging to the man who raped and kidnapped her as a teenager – and shares in its many themes. In Room, the pair lives in a claustrophobic physical space, but also a spiritual one that at times makes it a difficult read
 
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Epigraph
nurse
to suckle an infant
to bring up a child
to take care of the sick
watch
to observe
to guard someone, as a keeper
to be awake, as a sentinel
a division of the night
fast
to abstain from food
a period of fasting
fixed, enclosed, secure, fortified
constant, steadfast, obstinate
vigil
a devotional observance
an occasion of keeping awake for a purpose
a watch kept on the eve of a festival
shift
a change, an alteration
a period of working time
an expedient, means to an end
a movement, a beginning
Dedication
For our daughter, Una, an old Irish blessing: Ndr mille an sioc do chuid pratai, Go raibh duilleoga do chabaiste slan o chnuimheanna. May there be no frost upon your potatoes, nor worms in your cabbage.
First words
The journey was no worse than she expected.
Quotations
Everybody was a repository of secrets.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
An Irish village is mystified by what appears to be a miracle but may actually be murder in the next masterpiece from New York Times--bestselling author Emma Donoghue.

A village in 1850s Ireland is baffled by Anna O'Donnell's fast. A little girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this 'wonder' has reached fever pitch.

Tourists flock in droves to the O'Donnell family's modest cabin, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud.

As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.

A magnetic novel written with all the spare and propulsive tension that made ROOM a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--as a simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316393878, Hardcover)

A small Irish village is mystified by what appears to be a miracle but may actually be murder in the next masterpiece from New York Timesbestselling author Emma Donoghue.

A small village in 1850s rural Ireland is baffled by Anna O'Donnell's fast, which began as a self-inflicted and earnest expression of faith. After weeks of subsisting only on what she calls "manna from heaven," the story of the "miracle" has reached a fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O'Donnell family's modest cabin hoping to witness, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.

A magnetic novel written with all the spare and propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 05 Jan 2016 09:34:12 -0500)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who is said to be living without food, 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. As Anna's life ebbs away, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child but for that child's very survival. Haunting and magnetic, The Wonder is a searing examination of doubt, faith, and what nourishes us, body and soul. Written with all the propulsive tension that made Donoghue's Room a huge bestseller, it works beautifully on many levels -- an intimate tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a spellbinding story of love pitted against evil." -- from back cover.… (more)

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