Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

From the book jacket:

Lib Wright, a young English nurse trained by the legendary Florence Nightingale, arrives in an impoverished Irish village with a strange mission. Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is said to have eaten nothing for four months. With tourists thronging to see the child, as the press sowing doubt, the baffled community looks to an outsider to bring the truth to light. Lib's job is simple: to stay in the girl's bare room at all hours, watching her.

An educated skeptic repelled by what she sees as ignorance and superstition, Lib expects to expose the fast as hoax within days. But the long hours she spends with Anna begin to erode all her assumptions about the child, the Irish, and herself. Is Anna a fraud or simply a "living wonder"? Or is something more sinister unfolding right before Lib's eyes?


So. I found this book to be pretty engaging right from the beginning, despite it being a pretty slow moving plot--it was one of those books that I could sit down to read in the afternoon, and then look up to discover that the sun had set long ago. For most of the time that I was actually reading this book, I was pretty sure that this one would receive a 'must read now' rating from me. I liked the characters, I liked the story, I liked everything about it. However, somewhere in the second half of the book I found my opinion shifting slightly. Now that I'm finished, I think it's certainly worth reading...but I feel much less enthusiastic about it than I did initially. 

For me personally, I thought the romance that developed in the second half of the book was pretty unnecessary, and didn't really add anything to the plot. If Donoghue felt it was so necessary to include, then I wish she would have spent more time flushing it out in the conclusion. Instead, characters who hardly knew each other essentially sail away into the sunset for a "happily ever after" that didn't ring true for me given the circumstances.  

That said, I've heard a *lot* of people rave about this book, saying it was one of their favorites ever, and I don't want to discourage you from reading it, because you may feel the same. I thought it was a perfectly fine book, and definitely worth a read. It just fell a little flat right at the end for me. 


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