Tag Archives: Wonder of Books

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder By Emma Donoghue, begins with a gloomy portrayal of a beautiful country, Ireland. Having visited the vibrant island a few months back, I was disconcerted to read Donoghue’s lacklustre words. What a contrast I thought to myself. Was the author, I speculated, giving credence to the main character Lib, by reflecting a British nurse’s prejudices towards the Irish? As I read further it struck me, that Emma Donoghue was employing the Gothic style of writing. The term Gothic in itself is intriguing, isn’t it? Gothic Literature refers to the style of writing that employs elements of fear, horror, gloom, death as well as romantic elements, such as nature, individuality, and very high emotion. These emotions can include fear and suspense. Set just a few years after the an Gorta Mór, The Irish Potato Famine (1845 – 1849) a period of mass starvation and disease, the famine remains a formidable character in the background of the story.

With hunger a dominant theme in the book, the story revolves around 11 year-old Anna O’ Donnell who has refused to eat for four months and still survives. The devout believe this is a miracle and flock to the O’ Donnell’s cabin to kiss the hems of this living saint. The cynical believe it is a hoax. So how is the dilemma to be resolved? A committee is formed comprising the influential of the village: a landlord, a doctor who believes Anna is his greatest scientific discovery, a priest who wishes to protect his church at all costs and a tavern owner. Each one has their own vested interest in proving the child is indeed a miracle. Anna needs to be observed and a period of two weeks is decided upon where the girl will be watched every waking and sleeping moment. But who would do the watching? Two nurses are hired – one from England, a pupil  of Florence Nightingale, the other a Sister of Mercy,  who has devoted her entire life in service to the sick. One nurse is an Irish Catholic nun and the other a British woman of science. What could be a more impartial watch.

I know a book is good when I read and get sucked into it. When I can see the characters as if they were walking parallelly with me. As I read The Wonder, I could feel the coldness of the rain and roughness of Lib’s tweed nursing uniform. The starched rustle of Sister Michael’s habit sent a my nerves jangling. I fell for the handsome William Byrne, so jaded by his profession who recognised the truth of Anna’s condition quicker than the trained nurse, Lib. I recoiled from the squalor of the O’Donnell’s cabin just like Lib and wanted to straighten out the sheets of Anna’s bed with her. I could taste the peat in the oatcakes served to Lib and identify with the guilt of eating in front of a child who had not eaten for months. While I could understand the love of a father in Malachy O’Donnell, yet like Lib not reconcile to his dumb acceptance. As a mother I could not even begin to comprehend the character of Rosaleen O’ Donnell.  I felt sorry for the slavey, Kitty who collapsed every night onto the hearth. But most of all I could relate to Lib’s scepticism, her determined pursuit to expose the fraud and then her horror at the unimagined truth she uncovers. The revelations at the end are not really surprising, yet had me gasping in horror.

This book reveals the power of religion over a devout child misguided by the adults who should have been protecting her. Zealotry is not something I understand. Not overtly devout, I found Anna’s faith difficult to connect to. With all kinds of deafening religious debate blocking out all sounds of sensible discourse these days, I found in this book the dangers of being ‘God fearing’. When the tenets of religion provoke only a sense of fear in the minds of children, there is something very wrong with what is being preached. Saying that, I cannot help but admire the power of religion over individuals. Or is it the power of the so-called upholders of religion – the preachers screaming from the pulpits? This is not a comment on one, but on religion at large. Today we see a world where children are used as suicide bombers, where in the name of saving cows they are lynched, and mobs attack a bus full of school children in the name of upholding the honour of a fictitious historical character. Which leads me to ask that one question which I’m sure all of us ask: When will they, the preachers, realise that they have an obligation to the people for whom they have made their bond of reverence?

I am part of three Bookclubs, I read The Wonder with one of them. A question asked there had me stumped: Who was or what was The Wonder in this book? I cannot find the answer, as I debate with myself: Was is Anna, the girl who did not eat? Was it Rosaleen O’Donnell’s style of mothering? Was it Lib’s commitment to her patient? Was it a priest’s need to protect his church at all costs? Was it a Doctor’s need to leave a legacy? Was it the acrid aftertaste left by the author’s skill that made me reluctant to write this review? What was it that overwhelmed me, I do not know. I hope, dear reader, you can answer this one for me.

To read more of my Book Reviews please click on:

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/the-truth-about-the-harry-quebert-affair/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-before-we-were-yours/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/book-review-a-window-to-her-dreams/

https://vasudhachandnagulati.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/in-the-light-of-darkness-book-review/

 

 

 

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair

the truth about the harry quebert affair

As I mentioned in my last post, I made a Godawful promise to myself and as a result spent 10 bookless days. Since January is too soon to give up on a New Year resolution and I must stick to it till February at least, I had to write the review and fast. This time I was smart, I wrote the review as I read along.

When I got my hands on this 615 pages long innocently titled The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker, to be honest I wasn’t very thrilled. Would you be with a title that long and cover page revealing an empty town? However, once I began I couldn’t stop. Hastily prepared meals, ignored emails and exercise regimes, and  feigned ignorance towards the needs of the spouse and kids, I finished the book in two days flat. Well…two days and one all-nighter.

By now I must have piqued your interest, so without further ado, let me share the many reasons why you must read The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

For a good juicy Mystery

If there is one thing I absolutely abhor is the Rubix Cube. I am convinced Erno Rubix invented the damn thing to flummox the likes of me. I manage to solve one colourful (generally blue, since that’s my favourite colour) side and then the all the other sides resemble a punk’s dream come true. In school and college my friends gave up and now my kids have given up on trying to explain the ‘simple’ funda (as they call fundamentals) behind solving it. My daughter when she was 11 shared a YouTube video too hoping I would get it, but NADA. And then the Piramix, astride my Whizkid son’s palm, walked into our home. Let me not even get started on my battles with this Rubik’s cousin from hell. You may be wondering why I’m lamenting on my incapability to handle this ‘simple’ puzzle when the post is about a book deceptively named The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair.  The reason is rather simple (please, detect sarcasm here).

Fanny Blake of the Daily Mail describes the book as ‘An expertly realised, addictive Russian doll of a whodunnit’, I cannot find a better expression than hers. Having read whodunnit’s from an early age, there is not much that comes as a surprise in books anymore, and even though I had guessed who had ‘dunnit’ early into the read, Dicker made it tough to say: Aha! I knew it, at the very end. Every turn of the page became interesting as new information was revealed and confused the hell out of me on who would be the inglorious murderer. Joël Dicker can probably solve the Rubik’s cube and the Piramix with a few twists like my progeny, but I’m convinced he also can break it down to its spare parts and join them together without breaking a sweat. For he sure broke the plot of this book down, scattered the pieces, let his pet or offspring run riot over it and then put the pieces back together in the most ingenious novel within a novel. If that isn’t reason enough for you to pick up the book here’s the next.

You should read it for the protagonist, Marcus’s Mom

The most fun conversations happen between Marcus and his Mom. To the son’s frustration he just has to say something and the mother twists it into something else entirely, these conversations brought out many a chuckle of delight as I read on. She is the quintessential mother, always questioning all her son’s actions and choices resulting in hilarious conversations with her bewildered  child, who needed to get on with investigating a murder, exonerating his mentor and writing a book all at the same time. If I were Marcus, I wouldn’t have lasted, I would marry the first woman I came across just to shut her up. Sarcastic Moms have always been my favourite characters in books and Mrs Goldman lives up to the expectation and more. Need more reasons to read the book? Well, here’s the next.

If you are a budding writer

Read it for the dollops of writing advice dished out by Harry Qubert to his protégé Marcus. The many doubts I constantly deal with, are answered in this book with equanimity.  Here’s one to whet your appetite: “A new book, Marcus, is the start of a new life. It’s also an act of great generosity: You are offering, to whoever wishes to discover it, a part of yourself. Some will love it, some will hate it. Some will worship you, others will despise you. Some will be jealous, others will be curious. But, you’re not writing it for them. You’re writing it for all those who, in their daily lives, will enjoy a sweet moment because of Marcus Goldman. You may say that doesn’t sound like much, but its actually quite something. Some writers want to change the world. But who can really change the world?” 

You still need more reasons, right? Phew! Demanding, aren’t we.

Well here’s the last one. Every book should leave you with having something you would like to go back to again and here’s one from this one I wanted to share for all those who spend most of their life worrying about reaching the top of the mountain.

Harry:   “So you felt like you’d won?”

Marcus: “Yes, I did. Even if technically, I lost the match, I felt as if I had won.”

Harry:   “Well, there’s your answer: It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. What matters is how you fight between the first bell and the last one. The result of the match is just a piece of news for the public. Who can say you lost if you feel like you’ve won? Life is like a foot race, Marcus: There will always be people who are faster than you, and there will always be those who are slower than you. What matters, in the end, is how you ran the race.”

Amazing, right? So simple, yet a resounding message about what life should really be about.

I now gleefully reach out for my next read The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. Watch this space or rather my blog for the review.