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The Welsh Fasting Girl by Varley O'Connor

The Welsh Fasting Girl

by Varley O'Connor

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2712640,561 (3.33)10
Praise for the Previous Novels of Varley O'Connor "Thoroughly researched and lively." --Vogue "Elegantly wrought, hardheaded, and tenderhearted." --Michael Chabon "Honesty and compassion inform every page, and there are passages so musical and full of grace they read like hymns. Reading groups should rejoice." --Sigrid Nunez "[O'Connor] captures the dangerous intersection between private life and the forces of history . . . and gives the reader that rare pleasure of inhabiting another family life that feels at once entirely familiar and new." --Susan Richards Shreve Twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob was the most famous of the Victorian fasting girls, who claimed to miraculously survive without food, serving as flashpoints between struggling religious, scientific, and political factions. In this novel based on Sarah's life and premature death from what may be the first documented case of anorexia, an American journalist, recovering from her husband's death in the Civil War, leaves her home and children behind to travel to Wales, where she investigates Sarah's bizarre case by becoming the young girl's friend and confidante. Unable to prevent the girl's tragic decline while doctors, nurses, and a local priest keep watch, she documents the curious family dynamic, the trial that convicted Sarah's parents, and an era's hysterical need to both believe and destroy Sarah's seemingly miraculous power. Intense, dark, and utterly compelling,The Welsh Fasting Girl delves into the complexities of a true story to understand how a culture's anxieties led to the murder of a child. Varley O'Connor is the author of five novels, includingThe Welsh Fasting Girl,The Master's Muse, andThe Cure. She lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.… (more)
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    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Two stories of "fasting girls".

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In the 1800's a phenomenon among young girls was spreading across the Welsh countryside and this is the story of one of those girls. A fasting girl was a religious curiosity among he small town. A vicar and a struggling woman investigator/writer investigate whether this girl is truly a miracle. After a two week period, the truth is uncovered. I was really interested in reading this novel, but in the end it underwhelmed me. the writing was great, but the story seemed to revolve more around the investigator and her struggles with the story and her own family where I would have liked it to be told from the point of the fasting girl. ( )
  beachbaby1124 | Aug 1, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The late 1860s were a tumultuous time in the history of Wales. The Welsh struggled to keep their national pride despite the encroachment of the British in all areas of life, including language and religion. Against this backdrop, a twelve year old girl, Sarah Jacob, became a powerful symbol of the traditional Welsh belief in the power of supernatural forces. She became known as the "Welsh Fasting Girl" because, as her family and throng of supporters alleged, she miraculously hadn't needed to eat in years. An investigative reporter, Christine, is sent by an American newspaper to report on "The Watching", the two-week event that was supposed to settle once and for all if Sarah was secretly being fed. Unfortunately, Sarah did not survive the ordeal. Her parents were brought up on changes of manslaughter.

The Welsh Fasting Girl is a literary novel based on the true story of Sarah Jacob. It covers much the same territory as Emma Donohue's more heavily fictionalized work, The Wonder. Some have tried to make a case that the-real life Sarah was an early sufferer of anorexia nervosa, but in Varley O'Connor's vivid retelling, she is a victim of child abuse, exacerbated by an uncaring medical establishment and enabling parents. I liked how the novel delved into the aftermath of Sarah's fast, but I wasn't as excited about the device of having Christine write letters to her deceased husband to move the narrative along. In general, however, I found this a moving look at a tragic situation. Highly recommended. ( )
  akblanchard | May 25, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The novel, The Welsh Fasting Girl, by Varley O'Connor, focuses on one of the more famous fasting girls, twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob of Wales. The year is 1869. Sarah Jacob claims that she has not eaten for two years. A local vicar, initially skeptical, is convinced that Sarah's claim is authentic and immediately notifies the press. News of the miraculous Welsh Fasting Girl spreads across the Atlantic Ocean, and American journalist Christine Thomas, a Civil War widow, is sent overseas to investigate. Once in Wales, Christine detects underlying nuances in the Jacob family's dynamics and suspects that there is more to Sarah's situation than meets the eye. ...more ( )
  K_T_C | May 23, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Interesting concept and storyline but I did not like how it was presented, very much like many nonfictions, although this is fiction.

In 1860s Wales, a poor pre-teen girl is bedridden while she refuses to eat for weeks at a time, yet shows no ill effects. It is either a miracle or a clever deception. The vicar, doctors, and even a reporter from America make frequent wellness checks on the girl. Finally the locals suspect that someone must be feeding her and to prove it, she is put on a round-the-clock watch for 2 weeks. She doesn't survive the watch, and there is a trial.

The family background was interesting and telling of the times. I just thought it became very drawn out and repetitive.

A LibraryThings win. ( )
  kdabra4 | May 13, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
After the first few chapters, I really couldn't get into the story. It's too bad because I was actually looking forward to this novel. ( )
  rangel_tatum | May 7, 2019 |
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