Summary and book reviews of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder

by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2016, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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Book Summary

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, 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.

Excerpt
The Wonder

The journey was no worse than she expected. A train from London to Liverpool; the steam packet overnight to Dublin; a slow Sunday train west to a town called Athlone.

A driver was waiting. "Mrs. Wright?"

Lib had known many Irishmen, soldiers. But that was some years ago, so her ear strained now to make out the driver's words.

He carried her trunk to what he called the jaunting car. An Irish misnomer; nothing jaunty about this bare cart. Lib settled herself on the single bench down the middle, her boots hanging closer to the right-hand wheel than she liked. She put up her steel-frame umbrella against the drizzle. This was better than the stuffy train, at least.

On the other side of the bench, slouching so his back almost touched hers, the driver flicked his whip. "Go on, now!"

The shaggy pony stirred.

The few people on the macadamised road out of Athlone seemed wan, which Lib attributed to the infamous diet of potatoes and little else. Perhaps that was ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Wonder is a psychological enigma, fraught with mortal tension, that the reader solves alongside Lib. Donoghue raises compelling philosophical questions about free will, the extent to which a just society can tolerate religious zealotry, and the moral/ethical obligations of medical practitioners.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review Members Only (657 words).

Media Reviews

The Millions

Donoghue is known for her bestselling novel, Room... [But] she is also well versed in historical fiction. The Wonder brings together the best of all, combining a gracefully tense, young voice with a richly detailed historical setting

Seattle Times

Readers of historical fiction will gravitate to this tale.

The New York Times

…fascinating…The book is set in the mid-19th century, but its themes—faith and logic, credulity and understanding, the confused ways people act in the name of duty and belief and love—are modern ones.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Even with its tidy ending, the novel asks daring questions about just how far some might go to prove their faith.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Donoghue's most recent offering is as startlingly rewarding as her celebrated novel Room. Heart-hammering suspense builds as Lib monitors Anna's quickening pulse, making this book's bracing conclusion one of the most satisfying in recent fiction.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Her contemporary thriller Room (2010) made the author an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine.

Booklist

Exploring the nature of faith and trust with heartrending intensity, Donoghue's superb novel will leave few unaffected.

Reader Reviews

Nancy G

The Wonder
I purchased this book on the strength of the author's first which,in retrospect,was not a good decision.Each book stands on its own and I found this one very disappointing.The Characters seemed one dimensional...more like caricatures and at times I ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Fasting Girls

The Wonder was inspired by several real-life instances of girls who claimed to be beyond the earthly requirement of eating. The tradition dates back to at least medieval times when it was common for devoutly religious women to abstain from food, among other essentials. Intermittent fasting is a common custom in many religions and viewed as a sign of pious constraint.

Historian Rudolph Bell coined the term "holy anorexia" to describe this practice, associated with the 13th and 14th-century saints, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Clare of Assisi, among others. St. Catherine was known for extreme fasts and reportedly suffered "grievous pains" when she was forced to eat. St. Clare commonly fasted three days out of the week.

Perhaps the ...

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