Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue -- Book Review

Sometimes we read things and think, "Hmm...that wasn't really for me." Other times we read things and look around the room for something to beat ourselves with as penance for wasting our own time.

Book Description: "In the latest by Emma Donoghue, Lib, an English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle---a girl said to have survived without food for months. 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 has her doubts and is bent on proving the whole thing a hoax."

I actually really love "fasting girl" stories. It was a big thing in Victorian times and, while common sense tells us these lengthy and complete fasts were hoaxes, it's fascinating to read about the public's naive reactions in each case. This is a great idea for a storyline, but I didn't at all like the way this one was executed.

Main Thing: Slow and Dull. There is absolutely no rise and fall in this story, whatsoever. We just have the same routine on repeat, chapter after chapter. No side story, no other mystery, no character development, no other interesting anything. It was a major yawner---and that's saying a lot because I read it while laid up in bed after surgery. I had absolutely nothing else to do and I was still overwhelmingly bored with this story.

Second Thing: Inconsistent Protagonist. Lib is a real idiot sometimes. The Dorothy prayer? Please. She doesn't recognize the words of a simple prayer but she can quickly find scriptures to suit her arguments? I have a hard time believing someone educated in medicine can be this ignorant about geography, religion, language, culture, and more. England and Ireland are VERY similar in many of these things---would have been even more so then. I could see some of her ignorances coming out if she would have been working in Asia or something but I guarantee you the English know a thing or two about a bog. It's not just an Ireland thing.

Redeeming Bit: The End. The end is a good one. It's not really expected and it's actually believable. I could totally see this happening and I'm glad it did. I still wanted to chuck the book against the wall when I was through with it, but the three stars it's getting here are a nod to a decent ending.

For a really interesting nonfiction read about the Victorian fasting phenomenon, check out The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery by Michelle Stacey.

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