Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ms. Hen reviews THE WONDER

The Wonder
Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company

Ms. Hen decided to read this because her hen-sister lent it to her. Ms. Hen had read another novel by this author, ROOM, and she loved it. This book is very different, which shows the versatility of the author. It is also about a child, but it takes place in Ireland in the nineteenth century, not that long after the potato famine.

THE WONDER is about an English nurse named Lib who travels to Ireland to take care of an eleven-year-old girl, Anna, who has refused to eat. Her family and the people in the parish believe that it is a miracle and God is helping her to live. Anna claims to be fed from manna from heaven. It is Lib’s job along with another nurse, a nun, to make sure Anna is telling the truth that she is not really eating.

Lib scours Anna’s room and house to try to discover if food is hidden. She takes Anna’s vital signs, and attempts to understand how Anna has survived without food for four months, from April to August. Lib doesn’t understand the superstitious tendencies of the Irish, and their strange rituals. The housekeeper leaves a bowl of milk under the cabinet, and Lib inquires as to why, and the housekeeper said it is for the fairies.

(Ms. Hen is an Irish hen, and she doesn’t know if her relations were as ridiculously religious to the point where they believed in magic and little people. She has a suspicion that they were, and she thinks it could be fun, but if it ruled your life, it could make you seem a wee bit crazy. But if everyone else is like that, then you might not seem that unusual.)

One aspect of this novel which Ms. Hen liked is that it is primarily about a nurse. She hasn’t read that many novels that are mainly about nursing. She has read CALL THE MIDWIFE, which is a memoir, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, which is not principally about nursing. Lib had been a student of Florence Nightingale, and at that time, the profession of nursing was in its infancy. Nurses were mostly meant to take care of people, and not interfere with doctors, or give their input about diagnoses. Nurses were all women, and some were volunteers.

There are several hens in this novel. Ms. Hen finds that Irish novels are usually brimming with hens and chickens. One example, “Silence as she let herself in the door. Rosaleen O’Donnell and the maid were plucking a scrawny chicken at the long table.” This takes place near the end of the novel and Lib thinks that the women were talking about her, about how afraid they are of her.

There were times in the beginning of THE WONDER when the narrative dragged and Ms. Hen wanted more action. But when the action picked up, she was dazzled. She didn’t know how it would turn out in the end, whether the story was magical or not. She would recommend this novel to anyone who wants their breath taken away, and who want to believe that people are basically good.

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