This is my second novel by Donoghue. As did everyone, I read Room when it was so popular, but unlike seemingly everyone else, I didn’t care for it. There was something about the tone of the novel that put me off throughout.
But that isn’t the case with The Wonder. Right from the beginning, I connected with the tone and the premise of the novel. The main character, Lib, is one of the famous English Nightingale nurses who served in the Crimean War, and she’s been hired for a two-week stint in Ireland. She doesn’t know anything about her task until she arrives, and is immediately frustrated by it.
She’s not brought to Ireland to assist anyone in getting well. Rather, she’s been hired to observe an eleven-year-old girl named Anna, who supposedly has not eaten any solid food since her birthday four months ago. Lib is immediately incredulous and sets out to discredit the hoax. But is it a hoax?
It’s a fascinating premise. But where can you go from there? Either she’s not eating and it’s a miracle, or she is and it’s a hoax. Either way, the set-up is far more interesting than what comes after.
Without offering any spoilers, I’ll simply say I liked it, but didn’t love it because I don’t think the premise leaves the author much room to explore anything that can build throughout the novel, although she makes the attempt. It was better than Room for me, but still not entirely satisfying.