Clare Cannon's Reviews > State of Wonder

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
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's review
Feb 19, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: adults
Read from February 17 to 20, 2012

A scientific jungle experiment/investigation involving an elderly and rather secretive matriarchal doctor who leads the experiment, a missing/deceased company representative who was sent to investigate what the experiment is up to, and a female company representative (who happens to also be a former medical student of the matriarch) who is sent to investigate what happened to the previous company representative.

In spite of lengthy descriptions of the experiment and professorial soliloquising by the matriarch, the science and ethics of the experiment is secondary to the drama of the story, and perhaps because I didn't really care for any of the characters I cared even less about their dramas. The general plot kept the story going in an unobjectionable direction: the experiment was a little bizarre (extending the fertility of women beyond the normal time of menopause) but the direction the matriarch headed with it was fairly balanced, and she combined it with experiments that were more urgently needed for the health of the poor.

Yet many of the characters had confused little escapades along the way, the main character is in a non-public physical relationship with her 20-years senior boss, and (view spoiler). The two specific scenes were described, but more 'poetically' than graphically.

Personally I don't think it's worth the read, but if melodramatic and rather bizarre scientific experiments set in the middle of the jungle and told in the style of a higher-level tv drama sound enticing, then the quality of the writing may make this slightly higher-level than others of its type.
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Comments (showing 1-15)

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Susan The senior doctor's long soliloquies are so didactic! And I agree with you about the love scene: it was smug. The narrator seems to love all the characters too much.

Clare Cannon Yes, nothing really grabbed me about this book...

Yelda Basar Moers Clare I agree with you 100 percent! I was quite disappointed in this novel. I was wondering if I was losing my literary sensibilities, but then I read your review. As I said in my review, I found the main character as likable and interesting as a lamppost. Painfully dull at best! Plus, the plot didn't move forward. What were all these critics clamoring about???

Becky Clare, I am in whole-hearted agreement. You have put in words my exact sentiments. I was troubled by the sexual encounter between friends finding it completely unncessary. Honestly, I didn't finish reading the book. I read about 75% and skimmed the end.

message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Becky-you didn't miss a thing.

Joanne Tingle I am happy to see this review as I felt I was alone with my opinion about this book. I didn't have a problem with the writing as I did with the plot and the character development. Every now and then I dislike a book that has been highly praised but its nice to know I am not alone!

Vicki You should have said that your review contained spoilers, which it did I am 55% through the book and now i know the old doctor is pregnant and that the young doctor will have sex with a man she rescues.

Clare Cannon Apologies Vicki, I've hidden the spoilers.

message 7: by Vicki (last edited Nov 27, 2012 07:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vicki No problem. I wasn't that into the book so far anyway. That was why I was looking at reviews to see if it gets better. I have to finish it by tomorrow night for my book club and am having a hard time getting it done...

James Thanks for your review. I am half-way through the novel and have already lost interest for reasons similar to yours. These characters are not interesting enough to make all the discussions of insects bearable.

message 5: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Scardino I disagree 100%. The writing was extremely evocative, illuminating a very foreign emotional landscape in luminous prose. I believed totally in the hearts and souls of all these characters. First-rate in every way. Clare's writing on the other hand sounds like a studio reader's coverage report. This is why Ms. Patchett writes extraordinary journeys of human experience and Clare writes churlish reviews on social media websites. To all I say: judge for yourself and READ THIS WONDERFUL BOOK!

message 4: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Kugeares Thank you, Don. I was gripped by the story and elegant writing style within the first 20 pages, something very rare for me. Im leading the book discussion in my group on this, and can't wait! So eager now to read Bel Canto.

message 3: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Johansen I agree. Awful book, very manipulative in an awkward way.

Tracie Thank you, thank you to all who actually finished this book and spoke truth! I just keep waiting to care about ONE character, other than Easter, but it is simply not happening. Whoever said that Ms. Patchett has a fabulous publicist is spot-on. Life is too short to waste any more time on this book. Spoilers deeply appreciated!

Laureen Couldn't agree more Clare. The giant snake scene waslaughable.

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