The Wonder begins as a nurse, Mrs. Elizabeth “Lib” Wright, travels to a tiny village in the remote “dead centre” of Ireland in the 1860s. Lib, who describes herself as a widow, is one of the legion of female British volunteers who responded, some years earlier, to Florence Nightingale’s call to join her in Crimea, to care for wounded and dying British soldiers during the Crimean War. That harsh novitiate—compounded of the horrors of the battlefield and Nightingale’s relentlessly strict oversight—changed Lib’s life. Her training has made her, in the middle of the Victorian era, a new sort of woman: professional, in control of her emotions, knowledgeable, scientific. What happens to her in Ireland will remake her again.

About a dozen years ago, smack-dab in the middle of the Bush II administration’s misadventure in Iraq, a friend despairingly said to me, “I feel like everything I’m being told is a lie.” I shared her despair, which has, of course, returned—on steroids—during this year’s fraught, overwrought presidential campaign. I’m agitated hourly (no, make that every waking minute) by the thought that a shameless liar of Donald Trump’s magnitude might conceivably be elected to the world’s most powerful post, but, frankly, I’m also irritated by Hillary Clinton’s unbecoming lapses from the truth and her incurable (it appears) penchant for secrecy.

Thursday, September 22

Autumnal
As we wait for next Monday’s big brawl,
Let us sip pumpkin-spice alcohol,
Say goodbye to the summer
(What a climate-change bummer),
And look fearfully forward to fall.

Pas Très Jolie
It is done. Angelina and Brad
Are not one “Brangelina.” It’s sad.
Now they’re two. Now they’ve split:
Ms. Jolie. Mr. Pitt.
No more Pitt-Jolie hyphen. Too bad.

Edward Snowden was the agent behind the 2013 revelations of the National Security Administration’s vast international and domestic spying operation. But Snowden claimed he didn’t want to be the focus of the story. In Laura Poitras’s extraordinary 2014 documentary, Citizenfour, Snowden twice demurs: “I’m not the story here,” he insists, and then, later, “I don’t want to get myself into the issue . . . where it takes away from the stories that are getting out.”