The Welsh Fasting Girl Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob was the most famous of the Victorian fasting girls, who claimed to miraculously survive without food, serving as flash points between struggling religious, scientific, and political factions. In this novel based on Sarah’s life and premature death from what may be the first documented case of anorexia, an American journalist, recovering from her husband’s death in the Civil War, leaves her home and children behind to travel to Wales, where she investigates Sarah’s bizarre case by becoming the young girl’s friend and confidante. Unable to prevent the girl’s tragic decline while doctors, nurses, and a local priest keep watch, she documents the curious family dynamic, the trial that convicted Sarah’s parents, and an era’s hysterical need to both believe and destroy Sarah’s seemingly miraculous power.
Intense, dark, and utterly compelling, The Welsh Fasting Girl delves into the complexities of a true story to understand how a culture’s anxieties led to the murder of a child.
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Top reviews from other countries
To take the reader through the complexities of sequence and contrasts, O’Connor uses Christine, an American woman reporter as narrator who, with diligence, takes a fresh view of the story over the course of a year while living in the Welsh village. By having a woman investigate the intimate story of the women in the Jacobs' lives including pre-teen Sarah, her mother, siblings, in-laws, and nurses whose observations of Sarah affected them deeply, one feels the story elucidating from reluctant truth tellers. She connects to males in Sarah’s story, the father, reverend, doctors, other children, visitors, but it is the intimacy of Christine’s mother’s touch with the women that O’Connor uses to peel back what happened. As for herself, Christine is an educated woman from Brooklyn who has convinced a newspaper for which she has written in the past to let her do this story. The allegations of Sarah living for months without food have reached the US and touched her. Not only is she married to a man whom she loves deeply who is Welsh, and with whom she travelled to Wales in their early married life, her beloved husband, James, went to war and has not returned. She must decide if she is a widow with nothing to guide her in that decision but time and likelihood. Wrestling with this acceptance does not make her maudlin, or unnaturally brave, but seeking to move forward in a way that affirms her compassion and strength and fondness for Wales. The tactics that the author uses to tell her story allow us to know the character of the narrator and care for her. The co-existing and complex tales result in a book that is hard to put down.