Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BOOK: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, 351 pages

Orange Prize Shortlist 2012

Engrossing read focusing on scientific research into fertility drugs in the Amazon. It's been described as a retelling of Heart of Darkness as Dr Marina Singh is sent to the Amazon in search of her former mentor, Dr Swenson, after Marina's colleague died on his visit. Past relationships and a terrible person in Swenson make the relationships as tenuous as the jungle. Patchett sets the location so well; the jungle is wrapping around you as you read. My one course in anthropology came back to me during the encounters with the indigenous tribes.

Overall, it was a good read, but Patchett kept me a little removed from the characters. I cheered for Marina as she comes to grips with her life, and grows up a bit. Swenson infuriated me, as her narcissistic self controlled so many people, and with  her ability to twist everything to her selfish point of view. A few things happened at the end that were strange or abrupt, but I did like the book ultimately.

Both of Patchett's books that I've read (this and Bel Canto) had a similar distance from characters. I liked the books, but they are never the type that make me thrust upon others, or make me rave.  If you are looking for another book like this to read, Intuition by Allegra Goodman is also an Orange Prize nominee, and looks into scientific research.