16.11.17

BOOK REVIEW: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Lib Wright, a young English nurse, arrives in an impoverished Irish village on a strange mission. Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is said to have eaten nothing for months but appears to be thriving miraculously. Lib's job role is simple: to watch the girl and uncover the truth.
An educated sceptic, Lib expects to expose the fast as a hoax right away. But as she gets to know the girl she becomes more and more unsure: is Anna a fraud, or a 'living wonder?' or is something more sinister unfolding right before Lib's eyes? Written with all the propulsive tension that transported readers of Room, The Wonder asks what length we would go to for the love of a child. 

Publisher: Picador
Pages: 347

It's taken me ages to sit down and write this review as I'm still not too sure what I think! I was blown away by Emma Donoghue's book Room so I had very high expectations for this one. I am not saying that they weren't met but The Wonder is just so different. It's almost like it's not the same author. But then I've been thinking about this and I think Room was so well received because it was such a different, stand-out idea for a book so realistically the author was not going to be able to write something of a similar nature. Sorry for rambling but I'm just trying to explain why I've found it so hard to write my review.
The Wonder has a very beautiful, Gothic feel to it which I really enjoyed. The rural Irish setting brings an almost 'other world' feel to the book, Lib enters an entirely different world to her own, she is very much an alien in this setting, she has little understanding of the culture, religion and daily struggles faced by Anna's family. Her job is purely to observe Anna, an eleven year-old-girl who can apparently live without eating any food. Lib is sceptical from the very beginning and she struggles to merely observe without passing judgement or developing emotions about her young charge. Lib's job as a nurse is to care and make her patient's health her priority so she finds being in Anna's presence extremely frustrating. The girl is deteriorating in front of her and Lib feels powerless to prevent the inevitable. 
Emma Donoghue raises many questions about religion in this book. The pressures placed on people by religion and the huge amount of guilt often involved. The people around Anna want to believe that she is a miracle but their actions are selfish, it is as though they have lost sight of the fact that she is a child and therefore their responsibility. I felt that the author highlighted how many religious texts are open to many different interpretations, this is explored by Anna and Lib's numerous discussions as to what God would want and how he would want Lib to behave.
Emma Donoghue's writing is superb, in some ways not a huge amount happens in the book but I still couldn't put it down, there is a definite element of suspense running throughout. Like with Room, the author creates a very intense situation in which to explore human nature and behaviour. Lib and Anna spend long periods of time together in a small room, there is no where for either of them to hide. The Wonder was quite a surprising read and I really enjoyed it. I had to dismiss my previous experience of this author. Having had time to think about it, I think this book is moving, dramatic and thought-provoking. I'm going to give it a re-read in the future as I know there is probably even more that I could have taken from it.

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