Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “State of Wonder”

Tits McGee’s Books 17 – 24 of 2012

Clearly I need to improve at posting to the main blog for 2013, and at writing my own reviews. I made it to 43 books in 2012. Not quite the 52 I was aiming for, but I’m still happy and ready to take on the 52 for 2013. I’ll post more of the reviews over the next week

Book 17 of 2012 – The Virgin’s Lover by Phillipa Gregory

Book 18 of 2012 – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Book 19 of 2012 – State of Wonder by Ann Pratchett

Book 20 of 2012 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Book 21 of 2012 – The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Book 22 of 2012 – The Full Moon Bride by Shobhan Bantwal

Book 23 of 2012 – Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book 24 of 2012 – Guilty Pleasures by Lauren K Hamilton

Congrats to everyone who met their goal this year!

sevenstories’ #CBR4 Review #32: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

“Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women forever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer a student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.”

A careful and intelligent novel about science and human nature, I enjoyed reading a novel with such interesting, unpredictable characters and subtle introduction of big themes. There are some heavy themes here but Patchett is rarely heavy-handed and manages to avoid it being an ‘issues’ book with a beautiful story and well written, realistic heroine. The settings are the other star here, Patchett’s descriptions of both Minnesota and in particular Brazil are incredibly evocative, she creates worlds that spring up around you in beautiful detail. I thought that this book was superb but it didn’t have that indescribable element that makes you fall for a book. It was readable and engaging without being a book I thought about a lot whilst I wasn’t reading it. I really appreciated the wonderful way in which Patchett created characters and settings with such skill and I was eager to find out what decisions Marina would up making but I was slightly frustrated by the lack of emotional attachment I developed to most of the characters and would have enjoyed a slightly stronger emotional core to the novel. I would highly recommend this nonetheless, an excellently crafted novel.

The full review is on my blog.

First Line: “The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.”

Why I read it: I had it on my Amazon wishlist and when it was announced as being on the Orange Prize longlist I bought it. (It has since been announced as being on the shortlist).

Who I would recommend it for: Keen readers who look for careful writing and situations that escape the moral black and white. Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro or Jeffrey Eugenides.

Carolyn’s CBR Review #6: State of Wonder

When I heard the plot of Ann Pachett’s “State of Wonder” I thought it might be a modern retelling of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” While the concept of the book may have been inspired by Conrad’s classic novel, the two have little else in common. Dr. Marina Singh, a 42-year-old research scientist working for a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota, is sent to Brazil to bring the remains of her deceased lab mate home to his family. She’s also been sent to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. In a matter of weeks, Marina is sailing “down a river into the beating heart of nowhere” (another “Heart of Darkness reference”) until she finds Dr. Swenson living among the natives. Swenson is working on a veritable fountain of youth, a way to ensure a woman’s fertility into her seventies.

While the plot sounds intriguing, I was never fully drawn into the book. Most of the characters, including Marina Singh, never came to life for me, so their motives and actions seemed arbitrary, and sometimes downright stupid. Why would Marina Singh–a non-traveler if ever there was one, a woman whose major life decisions were all based on maintaining safety–agree to go to one of the most dangerous and terrifying places on the planet? Because her boss/lover (I never believed that relationship for a second) asked her to? Because the company wanted her to? Out of loyalty to her dead colleague? None of these answers works for me. Marina and her dead colleague’s relationship is also barely developed. She’s sad he died because she liked him and…that’s about it. For all of the pharmaceutical executives wailing about costs and delays, they are invariably meek as lambs. Dr. Swenson was the only truly interesting character. She is almost a megavillaness- strong, dispassionate, unscrupulous and expects everyone around her to conform to her almost suicidally self-denying standards. I agree with Boat Girl’s review of this book; I would have loved to see more debate about the ethics of this wonder drug.

The book cannot help being compared to “Heart of Darkness” or “The Constant Gardener” or “The Poisonwood Bible” and it comes up short. The book has an interesting concept, and soars during descriptions of the wild Amazon but ultimately it lags due to pacing and underdeveloped characters.


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