After taking her first communion in a rural Irish village, 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell stopped eating
THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue
by Emma Donoghue
After taking her first communion in a rural Irish village, 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell stopped eating.
Four months later, she is still alive. A committee is set up to verify this ‘miracle’ and summons nurse Lib Wright from England to supervise.
Ireland in the 1850s had its share of superstition, and what Lib uncovers appals and frightens her, but it is only when she meets the journalist William Byrne that a possible solution presents itself.
Brilliant at conveying claustrophobia — her previous novel, Room, was Booker-shortlisted — the author uses what was not an uncommon phenomenon of the ‘fasting girls’ to unlock the secrets festering in the O’Donnell household.
Obsession and bigotry are powerful forces, and she is ruthless in her expose of religious delusion, family lies and abuse.
The depiction of a child in extremis is almost unbearable, but this shocking and gripping story is beautifully written.
THE AUTUMN THRONE
by Elizabeth Chadwick
In 1176, Eleanor of Aquitaine is being held captive in Sarum by her husband Henry II and increasingly distanced from her children.
The king wants a divorce in order to marry his mistress, while their ambitious son Henry (who is the reason for his parents’ estrangement) is a thorn in his father’s side.
Now in her 50s, having weathered conflict and disappointment, the spirited and wealthy Eleanor has proved herself a survivor. She has no intention of giving in now.
Correctly so, for when her husband dies in 1189, and with her son Henry also dead, she is made Queen Dowager Regent and rules for Richard, her favourite child, when he embarks on the Crusades. Fascinating and poignant in places, this final volume in the trilogy goes a long way to showing why Eleanor’s mystique and allure has lasted as long as it has.
CARVER’S TRUTH by Nick Rennison
by Nick Rennison
West-End dancing girl Dolly Delaney has vanished and a senior contact at the Foreign Office has commissioned Adam Carver to find her.
Traveller, photographer and sometime intelligence gatherer, Adam is surprised by the commission given Dolly’s lowly status, but he and Quint, his manservant, set out to discover what they can.
However, unravelling the pitiful facts about Dolly proves to be more complicated than he anticipated, and the chase takes the two men all over London, up north to York and, surprisingly, to Germany.
It seems that the mystery of Dolly’s whereabouts is connected to top-secret information that could alter the balance of Anglo-German relations.
This is the second of the Carver and Quint adventures, and they make a quietly effective duo.
With his impressive knowledge of the Victorian world, the author confects a rattling good story of political shenanigans, sexual hypocrisies — and murder.
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