Join Kate’s VIP Club Now!

Follow Me

FacebookPinterestTwitter

Kate's Blog

Subscribe RSS

BOOK REVIEW: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

BLURB:

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.


MY THOUGHTS:

I have read Emma Donogue’s brilliant collection of fairy-tale retellings Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins but have not yet read any of her novels. I have heard such high praise of her writing, however, and I was so interested in the premise of her new novel, The Wonder, that I bought it as soon as it hit the bookshops.

The story begins with an English nurse, who had trained with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, arriving in a tiny Irish village to watch over a little girl whose family claims can survive without food. She lives on ‘manna from heaven’, and so is thought of as a kind of miracle. People come to her to be blessed, and leave the family gifts in return. The nurse, Mrs Wright, thinks it is all a sham, and determines to reveal the truth. However, slowly, all her preconceptions and prejudices are turned upside-down, and she discovers a very different truth to what she had expected.

I first read about cases like this in Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s brilliant history of Anorexia Nervosa, Fasting Girls. She shows how food-refusal by girls and young women stretches all the way back to medieval times, when saints and martyrs refused food or purged themselves of food as a sign of their religious devotion. In the nineteenth century, there were many cases of so-called ‘fasting girls’ including the famous case of Sarah Jacob, the ‘Welsh Fasting Girl’ who eventually died of starvation at the age of twelve after a watch was set over her by the local doctor. 

The Wonder is inspired by such real-life stories but, in the true art of fiction, transforms it into something much greater. The Wonder is a story about faith, about love, about secrets, and about the mysterious ways in which human lives intersect and impact on each other. I loved it.

BOOK REVIEW: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Thursday, January 05, 2017




THE BLURB (from GoodReads):


In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.





MY THOUGHTS:


I have read Emma Donogue’s brilliant collection of fairy-tale retellings Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins but have not yet read any of her novels. I have heard such high praise of her writing, however, and I was so interested in the premise of her new novel, The Wonder, that I bought it as soon as it hit the bookshops.


The story begins with an English nurse, who had trained with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, arriving in a tiny Irish village to watch over a little girl whose family claims can survive without food. She lives on ‘manna from heaven’, and so is thought of as a kind of miracle. People come to her to be blessed, and leave the family gifts in return. The nurse, Mrs Wright, thinks it is all a sham, and determines to reveal the truth. However, slowly, all her preconceptions and prejudices are turned upside-down, and she discovers a very different truth to what she had expected.


I first read about cases like this in Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s brilliant history of anorexia nervosa, Fasting Girls. She shows how food-refusal by girls and young women stretches all the way back to medieval times, when saints and martyrs refused food or purged themselves of food as a sign of their religious devotion. In the nineteenth century, there were many cases of so-called ‘fasting girls’ including the famous case of Sarah Jacob, the ‘Welsh Fasting Girl’ who eventually died of starvation at the age of twelve after a watch was set over her by the local doctor. 


The Wonder is inspired by such real-life stories but, in the true art of fiction, transforms it into something much greater. The Wonder is a story about faith, about love, about secrets, and about the mysterious ways in which human lives intersect and impact on each other. I absolutely loved it.

INTERVIEW: Melina Marchetta, author of 'Finninkin of the Rock'

Friday, March 15, 2013

Melina Marchetta is one of Australia's best loved authors and I'm incredibly pleased and proud to have her part of a stellar lineup at the SPECULATIVE FICTION FESTIVAL, at the NSW Writers Centre in Rozelle this weekend - 16 March 2013.

Melina is probably best known for her contemporary novels for young adults, but she has also written an amazing fantasy series, which begins with 'Finnikin of the Rock.' She has been kind enough to spare me some time in her busy schedule to answer my questions:



What is your latest novel all about?
I'm kind of not acknowledging that I'm writing one just yet, but I am jotting things down and thinking of it over and over again so all I can say is that it comes from the Hugh Latimer quote: Tell the truth. Shame the devil (which is also expressed by Hotspur in Henry the IV Part 1).

How did you get the first idea for it?
I've always had this story in my head, but what made me feel as if I could write it now, is having read a bit of crime fiction lately where writers use multiple narrators or omniscient narrators which is the only way I can tell this particular story.  I played around with multiple narrators in The Lumatere Chronicles but I'm ready to really let loose with this one.

What do you love most about writing speculative fiction?
I love being able to express really big emotions in really big dramatic ways. I felt as if I could take the characters to the pinnacle of their emotions which I probably wouldn't have got away with as much with contemporary fiction. Having Froi drop to his knees and almost tear his hair out with despair is quite liberating to write.

What are the best 5 books you've read recently?
It's being a combination of crime, spec fiction and YA.  When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson; The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill;  Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold ;  Wildlife by Fiona Wood; The First Third by Will Kostakis (the last two are coming out this year)

What lies ahead of you in the next year?
I think (fingers crossed a thousand times over) that it will be the year of the On the Jellicoe Road film being shot.  My part is pretty much over with the script, but I'm fortunate enough to be an up-close giddy spectator of how other people interpret my words.


INTERVIEW: Juliet Marillier, author of 'Flame of Sevenwaters'

Friday, November 09, 2012

There are only a few authors in the world that - when I hear they have a new book out - I get all excited . 

Juliet Marillier is one of those authors. I have read every word she has ever written and loved every single one of them. Her books are an enchanting mixture of history, romance, and magic. As filled with wonder and danger and wisdom as any fairy tale, her novels always, always, leave me wanting to be a better person. Her heroines are brave and tender-hearted and capable of great love, all the things I want to be - yet they are still real people, with flaws and struggles and failures.



If you have not yet discovered  Juliet Marillier, I suggest you start with 'Daughter of the Forest', one of my favourite books of all time and a retelling of 'Six Swans', one of my favourite fairy tales. It is the first in a series of six books, each centred on a member of the family which lives at Sevenwaters, a house in Dark Ages Ireland set in the midst of a great forest in which many mysterious and magical creatures lurk. 



The latest is the series is 'Flame of Sevenwaters', released this week (you can read my review below). 

To celebrate its launch, Juliet has agreed to meet with me and chat (in cyper-space, unfortunately, as she lives in Perth and I live in Sydney):


Are you a daydreamer too?
I’ve been a daydreamer since I was a small girl devouring books of fairy tales! I find it easy to slip into worlds of the imagination, and am constantly surprised – often delighted - by what I find there. 
 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Not consciously, though I’ve been writing stories since I could hold the pencil and more or less spell the words. I went through a dinosaurs-and-killer-robots stage, then there were sagas about mountaineers and assassins, and some early attempts at fantasy set in a vaguely medieval world. All before the age of 14 or so. But I went on to study music and to work in various other fields. I returned to what was probably my true calling as a writer much later in life.
 
Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do? 
I was born and grew up in Dunedin, New Zealand, which is the most Scottish city outside Scotland itself. I currently live in a riverside suburb of Perth in Western Australia, and my household consists of me and four dogs. That probably answers the third part – I am passionate about animal rescue and I foster dogs for a local rescue group, though the four I mentioned are all permanent residents. I also like gardening, reading and knitting. And playing with my grandchildren, two of whom live fairly close by.
 
How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
'Flame of Sevenwaters' is the sixth and probably final instalment in the Sevenwaters series. It combines an over-arching story line that began in 'Heir to Sevenwaters', about the struggle of Lord Sean and his family with a dark prince of the Otherworld, and a stand-alone, ‘one-book’ story. I had already decided the story would be narrated by Sean’s daughter Maeve, who appeared as a child in an earlier book. Maeve has a significant disability – severe burns have left her with permanently stiff, clawed hands. In this story she has to step up as an action hero, which meant I needed to work out just what she could and couldn’t do, keeping things plausible for her time and culture and her condition. I needed to give her qualities that made her a real protagonist, not a victim of her past ill fortune. That’s where the flash of inspiration came in: I was, at the time, working with my rescue dog Harry in formal obedience training, so I was learning a lot about the relationship between a dog and its handler. When we met her in 'Child of the Prophecy', Maeve had a big dog that followed her around everywhere. Aha! I realised I could build that into a special talent with animals, the equivalent of being a horse whisperer / dog whisperer. This proved to be the real heart of the story. Good boy, Harry!



How extensively do you plan your novels? 
I am a planner by nature. First I do any necessary research, then I write an outline of about two pages. I’ll generally expand that into a full synopsis, then do a chapter by chapter plan. All that before I start writing. If that sounds a bit rigid, I should add that I stop after every three chapters or so, go back to the chapter plan and change it if something’s not working or if I’ve had a new bright idea along the way. I revise continuously as I’m writing the book. That means I work quite slowly, but I don’t need to do very much revision after that first draft is complete.
 
Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
Yes, though it’s only rarely that I have one of those fantastic, well-structured dreams that can be worked into a story. The title story of my collection being published by Ticonderoga next year, 'Prickle Moon', came to me almost complete in a dream I had while visiting Dunedin earlier this year. A magnificent gift conjured up from a cauldron of old memories, including the hedgehogs we saw so often while growing up there and the Scots dialect I heard a lot in my childhood. My dreams are often quite like fairy tales in flavor, that’s when they are not of the anxious, about-to-miss-the-bus, dropped-my-keys-down-the-drain variety!
 
Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
When I started the Sevenwaters series back in the mid-1990s, I had no idea it would become six books plus a novella, so I had no vision of how it might end. But the way Ciaran’s story played out over the whole series, and his choices in this novel, felt inevitable to me, as if he’d been heading in one direction all along.  I guess the astonishing part of that was the feeling (it comes rarely) that his story somehow already existed and I was just the person lucky enough to be retelling it for him. Weird but good. For those who don’t know the Sevenwaters books, Ciaran is an enigmatic druid whose story spans the entire series. He never gets the point of view, but we come to know him and care about him.
 
Where do you write, and when?
At the kitchen table mostly, because that is the area where the dogs hang out during the day. I do have a perfectly well set up study but I don’t use it much. When? Roughly office hours, with an extra stint in the evening if I’m not happy with what I’ve achieved during the day. It does vary a bit depending on what else needs doing. I try to get to the gym three times a week to counteract all that sitting down staring at the screen. The dogs make sure I take breaks!
 
What is your favourite part of writing?
The times when I suddenly realize I’ve been writing for two hours without even being conscious of it – that always means what I’ve written is good! Also, the feedback from readers telling me my writing has inspired their own creative efforts, got them enjoying reading again, or helped them through a difficult time. We writers would be nothing without our readers.
 
What do you do when you get blocked? 
On those days when the writing isn’t flowing well, I do all the other jobs I need to complete as a full time writer: accounting, preparing workshops, responding to email and letters, research, editing, blog posts … Other things that help get through a creative block are exercise (easy for me as there’s always a dog or two wanting another walk), other creative activities such as gardening, baking or craft work, reading over something I’ve written that I know is good, to reassure myself that I can still do it. Because it doesn’t matter how many novels a writer has in print, the self-doubt never quite goes away. That’s probably a good thing, as it makes us keep striving to improve our craft.
 
How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
By reading folklore and fairy tales. By observing the natural world. By studying human behavior.
 
Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Dorothy Dunnett, Dorothy L Sayers, Mary Stewart, Iain Banks, Jodi Picoult, Kate Morton, Joe Abercrombie, Daphne du Maurier, Kerry Greenwood, Jane Austen. (Yes, there’s only one fantasy writer in there.)
 

Mary Stewart, who is one of my favourite writers too!

What do you consider to be good writing?  
It depends a bit on the kind of book, but the novels I enjoy most combine excellence of craft with compelling storytelling. Certain weaknesses of style put me off completely - I especially dislike head-hopping (frequent changes of point of view within chapters or even within paragraphs), a heavy
authorial 'message', and unnecessarily flowery or ornate writing. The best plot in the world can't balance these out for me.

 What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Read widely, well outside the genre you write in. To become a great writer, you must start as a keen reader, someone who loves storytelling. Don’t try to write for the market – by the time you finish your novel, whatever was the next big thing when you started will be out of fashion. Instead, write the story you passionately want to tell. Follow your heart, but learn the basic skills of writing as well: correct grammar, spelling and syntax. The easiest way to develop these skills is by reading a lot! Write a little every day, so you develop self-discipline. A personal journal is handy for this, not to write down what you had for breakfast, but any ideas or thoughts that come to you. Be prepared for setbacks; believe in yourself and your writing.
 
What are you working on now? 
I’m working on the third book in the Shadowfell series, which has the working title 'Caller'. The series is a YA/adult crossover fantasy, set in a magical version of ancient Scotland. Book 1, 'Shadowfell', is available now. Book 2, 'Raven Flight', comes out in mid-2013.
 

Yay! I loved 'Shadowfell' and so I'm happy to know I have more to look forward to.  

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy my interviews with Joanne Harris and Josephine Pennicott

Or you can read my review of Juliet's  latest book, 'Flame of Sevenwaters', here.
I'm a Gemini, I love to chat! Please leave a comment

Subscribe RSS

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive


Blogs I Follow