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. (Goodreads).
My Goodreads rating: 5 stars
Where to even begin?
I started this book a few weeks ago and have only been able to read snippets here and there, due to a very busy schedule. And I finally sat down in the late hours of the night yesterday to marathon the final half or so. And I couldn’t stop reading. I loved everything about this book, but that’s a little vague. Let’s break it down:
Firstly, there’s the setting. The novel is set in a rural Irish village, post-famine. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ireland suffered through a huge potato famine which began in 1845. A large number of people emigrated, but an even larger number of people died. This is important in the story, and helps emphasise “the wonder” of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who has amazingly survived for four months without eating anything at all. Which brings me to:
The premise. Such a stunningly original, fascinating and downright creepy idea for a story. From the start, I was engrossed with the girl who does not eat, and I enjoyed following the mindset of the very skeptical nurse, Mrs Wright, whose training has not prepared her for a case like this. The book has a natural flow, where at every page you have no idea how the child can go so long without a single bit of food. I really haven’t read anything like this, and the book had me on the edge of my seat.
Other eleven-year-olds knew when they’d eaten and when they hadn’t; they were old enough to tell make-believe from fact. There was something very different about – very wrong with – Anna O’Donnell.
Next, the story itself. There is a very subtle, creepy vibe to the whole thing. Whether it’s the strange villagers, who treat the girl like a saint, or her parents and priest, who refuse to believe that anything other than a miracle could be at play. As Mrs Wright is the only party who actually wishes to get to the bottom of things, a reader follows her growing bewilderment at Anna’s lack of food. The book never turns into a horror of sorts, but it is enough to give you strange, scary vibes. The overly-religious village is also extremely suspicious, and completely adds to the overall spooky feeling of the book, leaving you uneasy. As a huge fan of horror films and books, I would have loved it if the book was even scarier, but it worked perfectly the way it did, leaving you nervous in the most subtle way possible.
The characters are well-developed, particularly Mrs Wright. And I have to say this, because it so rare that a book like this actually works out well for me: I was completely blindsided by the solving of the mystery. I literally did not see it coming, and the whole final quarter of the novel was so full of twists that my mind was left reeling. It is one of the best “mystery reveals” I have ever read, and I was not disappointed. Throughout the whole book, I speculated a number of different possibilities. Was someone feeding Anna? Was someone lying? Were the fairies (mentioned a number of times) and an element of the supernatural involved? Was Anna really a miracle child? I really had no clue.
The ending is outstanding. That’s all I’m saying. My lips are sealed, and after a night of tears, I’m still left reeling. The book is stuck in my head, and I want to read it again! This book is nothing like I expected, in the best way possible.
So, if any of the above sounds appealing, I urge you to read it. I have read reviews saying that the middle of the book is too slow, etc. I can see what they mean, but I think it really worked that way. Like I said, it’s not a horror novel. But it is enough to keep you turning the pages, and speculating about every single aspect of Anna O’Donnell’s mystery. I strongly recommend it.
*If you’re interested and would like to buy this amazing book, I’ll leave a link for it here (Book Depository):
That’s it for now! I haven’t done book reviews in ages so I’ll start doing more of those. I also tags and awards to do so look out for those! Thanks for reading xxx