The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is best known as the author of the Booker Prize-nominated novel, Room, which was adapted to become one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015. In The Wonder she goes back a hundred or so years to find another child living in desperate and unusual circumstances.
Anna O’Donnell is a healthy 11-year-old Irish girl; unremarkable in every way, except that for four months she’s eaten nothing. In a country recovering from terrible famine and starved for hope, Anna quickly becomes a beacon for religious faith, and the local doctor – eager not to seem superstitious and backwards in a rapidly modernising world – enlists the assistance of a 24-hour Watch to decide once and for all whether the girl is a miracle, or a fraud.
Enter Lib Wright, the pragmatic, practical English nurse sent to uncover the truth behind Anna’s condition. Lib is a sceptic who places her faith in science and process rather than religion, and she is certain that it won’t take long before the truth of Anna’s deception can be uncovered. During her prickly interactions with the journalist, Byrne, Lib comes to the realisation that the case is more complicated than she first believed, and that her prejudices may be affecting her ability to discern what is at the heart of Anna’s fast.
The Wonder is a beautifully realised historical thriller that examines the conflict between the old world and the new, but never loses sight of the human story at the heart of the mystery. Anna’s innocence and gentle piety contrasts with Lib’s rational atheism, and it’s clear that both of them have something to learn from the other.
Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager for Readings.