Sunday, December 3, 2017
Emma Donoghue, THE WONDER
I found the premise of this book intriguing: an historical novel, set in back-of-beyond 1860s-ish Ireland, about a young girl who is, ostensibly, living on nothing but air and thus is possibly a miracle or a saint. Told from the perspective of a practical and somewhat jaded nurse named Lib (who served in Crimea under Nightingale), it suggests the various ways a child can be put to use--by a religion, by her family, by the townspeople--for their benefit, and to conceal their own selfishness, greed, and failures of character. At the bottom of the "miracle" is a sordid but not unexpected event; it is revealed at the end, giving the book the structure of a mystery. My one difficulty is that Lib seems slow to gather the clues; when she sees the picture of the brother "Pat" for example, her parents say he has "gone over, God bless him," I immediately assumed he had died; but Lib thinks, "Oh, he went to the colonies." Perhaps this might be indicative of a tendency of her character, but she gathers other, similar clues readily enough; so it just seemed odd. Still, I liked the book; a two-day read.