State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

Happy Christmas Eve.

This will be my first Christmas in the UK for a few years so we have been taking advantage of the cold (ish) weather and nesting in this afternoon, eating chocolates and watching the excellent film Out of Africa. I haven’t seen it before and it is just beautiful – the acting, the photography, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford – just lovely. Although the film has an apparently more romantic slant than Karen Blixen’s book, I can’t resist adding it to my TBR list for next year, a list that is quite large already!

For those people celebrating, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy 2012 filled with lots of wonderful books.
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I read State of Wonder a few months ago now and it’s one of a few books I’ve read this year but haven’t written about so far. I didn’t love the story but I did find it intriguing and the writing was so good that I think it wouldn’t have mattered what Ann Patchett had been writing about, I would have wanted to keep reading.

A mix of science, ethics, physical and personal journey’s, old wounds and healing, it has a hint of the magical in an Avatar movie kind of way, coupled with that sense of unknown danger that accompanies any expedition deep into the jungle. It also has a good plot.

Despite there being several male characters, this to me is essentially a women’s story. That’s not to say male readers wouldn’t like it. Issues of professional integrity and autonomy as well as motherhood feature and all of the female characters have a history of not getting what they need from the men in their lives. This is presented subtly but affects the actions each of the women take.

Quite a lot of the story is in dialogue which makes it easy to become engrossed and I like this style – the opportunity to form my own opinions about the characters.

The elusive Dr Swenson has been researching a potentially revolutionary drug deep in the Amazon jungle for the past ten years. If successful, this drug will change the lives of people throughout the world. Funded by the pharmaceutical company Vogel, she refuses to report on her progress or to reveal the exact location of her laboratory. Anxious for some return on their investment, Vogel’s Dr Fox dispatches his employee Dr Marina Singh to Brazil to provide an update.Several dynamics come into play here including history between Marina Singh and Dr Swenson and the disturbing news that Marinah’s predecessor had mysteriously died in the jungle, an occurence that Dr Swenson found rather inconvenient and an unwelcome interrupton to her work.

The physical and emotional danger of the Amazon is anticipated and described well. The story has two distinct parts – the time in the jungle and the time waiting to get there. This waiting period is considerable and is fraught with tension. The story then takes a turn that I wasn’t really expecting.

I enjoyed the writing more than the actual story but I did like the fact that this book made me think and while I didn’t especially like the ending I did like the message which I read as ‘some things are best left alone.’ I’ll say no more for fear of spoiling but there is plenty to ponder in this book!

2011, 368 pages

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3 responses to “State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

  1. Avatar-like, and personal journal did you say? This may be the book for me! I read Digging into America by same author and I didn’t like it. I’ll try this one. Thanks for the recommendation. Happy New Year again!

  2. So I don’t lead you astray – the Avatar bit is just a hint – not really a theme but you will see what I mean if you read it! Hope you enjoy if you do 0:)

  3. Pingback: Orange Reading: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett | Iris on Books

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