Tuesday, January 15

Bibliophile [state of wonder]

Whoa, dropped the ball on posting yesterday. Busy weekend: sold our beloved green couch (RIP), which lead to extensive cleaning/organizing/strategizing future furniture purchases, went to a happy hour, saw Le Mis, tried a new restaurant in Clarendon, had friends over for fancy cocktails and stimulating conversations on women's rights/personal career goals/Atlantic City, attended a Patriots game watch, caught up with a dear friend at Peregrine (best espresso and coffee in DC), etc etc. Anyway, here now.

Ann Pachett is an amazing writer, and this book was no exception.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

Here's your blurb:

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest's jeweled canopy.

Patchett wrote Bel Canto and Run, both of which I have reviewed before. She is very distinctive. Her flowing, poetic prose continues in Wonder, but this time I focused less on her writing style and more on her larger themes. She has a wondrous talent for giving you a sense of place, for developing the setting beautifully. She unfolds the amazon in a way that lives in my memory as if I had been there, but not in the boring three-page-long-adjective-saturated manner of many lesser writers.

It could be true that I focus more on setting because I found some of the characters less developed and authentic than usual (I read a few reviews that said the characters sometimes made decisions or took action that didn't fit their previously painted identities, which I think is true). And, as with Run, I almost felt like she tried to do too many plots: the interplay between capitalism and the common good, global health issues, family ties, drug research and development, workplace romances, female rights, family planning, poisonous spiders, that kinda thing. Quite a breadth for one novel. 

I'm glad I read it, because a very good but not excellent novel from Patchett is better than many other novelists' best work.

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