Between the 16th and 20th centuries, over fifty cases of “fasting girls” – who apparently survived without eating or drinking – were recorded. These inspired Emma Donoghue, the author of the best-selling The Room, to write her latest novel.
In The Wonder, the English nurse Lib Wright, who served under Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, is hired for a job in the Irish midlands. She is dismayed to learn that she has not been summoned on a regular nursing assignment, but to observe an eleven-year-old girl named Anna O’Donnell for two weeks.
The girl has supposedly not eaten for four months, and a powerful group of men who represent the town want to prove that she is a miracle. The sceptical Lib takes on her role reluctantly, and soon comes up against the religious council of men which has appointed her, as well as Anna’s own family.
In a New York Times review of the novel, Stephen King says, “For the most part, The Wonder is a fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner (I use the phrase without shame).”
“Like The Room, this is a thrilling domestic psychodrama that draws its power from quotidian detail as well as gothic horror, as a woman and a child at close quarters must draw on inner resources to survive an impossible situation. But Donoghue also sets Anna and Lib’s relationship in a wider context: of English and Irish antagonism, of the birth of nursing, of the clash between science and faith,” says Justine Jordan in a Guardian review of the novel.
Published in 2016.