Instaread Summary, Analysis & Review of Emma Donoghue's The Wonder
Four out of five stars
From this summary, it is clear that this novel is unusual. The best point made in the summary is in the very last paragraph.
“In an Author’s Note that’s much more compelling and evocative than the story itself, Donoghue mentions that the story is very loosely based on historical events.”
From this paragraph and the description of the plot, the development of the note into a full book may have been more interesting.
The setting is Ireland in 1859, which is after the worst of the famine. Elizabeth “Lib” Wright is a British nurse trained under Florence Nightingale and whose base is in London. Therefore, she has had little exposure to rural Ireland, the last part of her journey is by a horse-drawn cart.
Her task is to investigate an eleven-year-old girl that supposedly has not eaten in four months. The girl is Anna O’Donnell and there is a growing belief that she is a theological miracle. As one would expect, there are many self-serving complications in this situation. It involves incest, deception about past events, manipulation of situations and poorly channeled religious zealotry. Like the English of the time, Lib has many preconceived notions of what she considers the primitive Irish that she must overcome.
There is a love interest that develops with Lib that leads to revelations and an unusual conclusion. From the summary, there are hints that the book refers to a long-held family secret. The story itself is not described as one that will keep you riveted to the book, it sounds like one that would be read in short snippets rather than in long sessions.