Tuesday 18 April 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

An English nurse, Lib Wright, is brought to a small Irish village just after the Crimean war, where she served under the great Florence Nightingale. She doesn't know what her assignment is when she arrives. She is taken to the local pub/inn where she is informed that she is there to verify a story. Her patient, Anna, who is eleven, hasn't eaten for four months, asserting that she is sustained by 'manna from Heaven'. It seems that the community is inclined to believe her, and already the family are receiving visits from strangers to worship, admire and gawk at this miracle. Lib's partner in crime is a nun, not a nurse, and not trained in these things. They must observe 24/7.

From the very first page, I was steeped in the miry bog of Irish atmosphere, which is the perfect setting for this creepy tale of shadows, suspicion, subterfuge - or maybe miracles, awe and wonder? Which is it? The undertones of faith and religion, playing out in an impoverished superstitious village quickly develop into a story that is completely gripping and will absorb you with its intensity and drama. 

Not to mention the characters - Anna, just a little girl; Lib, who wants to do her job and the right thing, which seems agonising at times; the young priest, all the village elders and the family are embroiled. 

It only struck me afterwards, when I couldn't stop thinking about the themes, how difficult it is to navigate these complexities, and the extraordinary talent that Emma Donoghue has in steering us expertly through all the ditches and trenches we could so easily have fallen into.

I was thoroughly immersed and completely enraptured by this book. I loved every morsel.

5 stars


You may also enjoy Room by the same author, or Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George.

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