Wednesday, October 03, 2012

First Wednesday Book Review Club: State Of Wonder

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

I cannot say I found this an entirely successful outing for one of my favorite writers. This is the story of a trip by a female scientist to a primitive part of the world. And the best part of the book is the evocation of that world. How alien it seems to us. And to Dr. Singh. Snakes, rats, cannibals, disease, drugs that are almost as difficult as the problems they solve. It is part of her assignment.

When a scientist for a pharmaceutical company disappears, his death is assumed, and another employee is sent to check on the details. The company is investigating the ability of a group of natives to both resist malaria and to have babies into their seventies. The second ability has the most cache for the company. Dr. Singh meets up with an early nemesis--the doctor who presided over her failure as a gynecologist. Now she is part of the research taking place in this remote place.

I found much of this book interesting, but I have to say the characters seemed more like voices for the moral quandary the doctor finds herself in than fully fleshed out characters. There is far too much discussion of the morality of scientific research to fully engage the reader. And yet, I finished the book so it had to have something. Maybe you will find it too.


Scott Parker said...

It's interesting when you come across a book by a favorite author that just doesn't sit well with you. Even more interesting to say so in public. Funny you mentioned that the characters seemed like voices rather than characters. I just (mostly) finished reading Ringworld by Larry Niven. In that SF book, the four main characters do a LOT of talking about stuff, so much so that it dragged the book down for me. I had a similar thought as you when I was reading that book: this is more like an article explaining concepts rather than a story. Least you finished your book. ;-)

Ellen Booraem said...

Very insightful review. The plot sounds fascinating, but if the characters aren't fleshed out no plot will work. Thanks for the warning!

Scot, I've been trying to listen to Ringworld on my mp3 player and keep making excuses to listen to something else. I may have to admit defeat--somehow easier to do on an audiobook than a printed one.

Rose said...

I appreciate your honest review, Patti. I'm always disappointed,too, when I read something by a favorite author that just isn't as good as previous books. I've heard a lot about Ann Patchett, but haven't read any of her books yet--is there one you would particularly recommend?

At least you finished the book...I've given up on a couple disappointing books lately and didn't even get a review done in time this month:)

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Sorry to hear this book didn't engage you more than it did. I've had that happen too. You're exactly right too; without really interesting characters, even interesting information won't keep a reader turning pages.