Thursday 20 April 2023

Film Review: The Wonder (2022)

Back in 2018, I reviewed Emma Donoghue’s 2016 nineteenth-century-Ireland-set novel, The Wonder, for this blog—check out my full review here. Today, five years on, I’m back with a post about the book’s film adaptation.

The Wonder (2022) is remarkably true to Donoghue’s novel and doesn’t resort to Hollywood theatrics to enhance the story. It stars Florence Pugh as the English nurse, Lib, and she’s the ideal actor to pull off the role. Despite the slight plot and limited setting, Pugh’s facial expressions alone are enough to keep our interest for nearly two hours. The filmmakers also do a great job conveying the moody atmosphere, which makes the genre of the movie initially difficult to pin down. Are we in a horror film or is this psychological horror? movie watchers might ask themselves in the first thirty minutes.

One result of the faithful adaptation is that my original criticisms of the novel still hold. The romantic subplot is underdeveloped, and Lib never sways in her rational beliefs, although I would have loved to see Pugh grappling with whether to accept a supernatural explanation for her patient’s lack of appetite. The movie also introduces a new problem—a slightly bizarre and meta frame story, that reminds us that we are watching actors, not real people. This was a strange choice, but these short opening and closing minutes do little to detract from what is an entertaining watch.

Overall, I’d recommend The Wonder to fans of costume dramas and Pugh, and anyone with an interest in nineteenth-century Ireland. I loved how the film emphasized the trauma of the Great Famine, placing a disturbing story about one child who refuses to eat in a wider cultural and historical context. Writers may also wish to compare the novel to the screenplay to understand how small changes can play to different media.

What nineteenth-century film would you like the Secret Victorianist to review next? Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist

Saturday 8 April 2023

Writers’ Questions: What are some writing websites I should know about?

In my Writers’ Questions series, I’ve been sharing advice about the writing and publication process for the past four years. In today’s blog post I’ll be sharing more free writing resources—five great websites that should already be on your radar…

Chill Subs: Submitting short stories or poems to literary journals? Entering writing contests? Applying to residencies? You need to check out Not only is the browsing interface free and easy to use, but you can also track your submissions and show off your publications.

Answer the Public: Do you run a blog or write journalistic articles? Make sure you’re answering the questions real people have about your topic of choice by using my favorite tool for search engine optimization— Warning: you only have a limited number of free searches each month, so use them wisely.

Hemingway App: Working on improving your “window-pane” prose? You’ll soon be eschewing adverbs and banning passive voice with Just copy/paste sections of your work in progress into the tool—no download required. 

Shepherd: So, you’re active on Goodreads and BookBub, but what about  I love how readers can browse by topic and how authors are encouraged to promote their own books, by giving love to thematically similar reads. Check out my own article here.

Reddit: Are you writing about a part of being human you haven’t had direct experience with? e.g., having long hair, being passionate about knitting, or dealing with a toxic mother-in-law? Whatever experience you’re writing about, there’s probably a subreddit for that (trust me, r/JustNoMIL was a vital part of my research for Bronte’s Mistress), so check out, even if you’re not usually a social media fan.

Fellow writers, I’d love to know what other website are a vital part of your writing and publishing process. Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist.