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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 29, 2013
Ann Patchett is a gifted writer who's always interesting (for me) to read. Here her descriptions of American scientists and the Amazon jungle are wonderful. This book doesn't quite work, IMO. There are long draggy parts and I found myself skipping pages. Patchett's plot has a Heart of Darkness quality to it, though here it's more Heart of Primal Innocence Meets Self-Deluded North Americans. I finished reading this only because it was a book club requirement.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If you already have an unfavorable view of pharmaceutical companies this book will do nothing to assuage that view. I can see clearly that developing a drug to allow women to conceive well into their 60's & 70's would be an attractive proposition to pharmaceutical executives, but the concept is so abhorrent to me I can't help but cringe in horror at the very thought. The story leads us to believe that the drug company in this case had to be tricked into believing that they were paying to produce such a drug since developing an inoculation to prevent malaria (which kills several hundreds of people each year) was not attractive to them, the reason being it would not be as much of a money maker as the other. A very conceivable plot to me.

Since I did not care at all for the premise of the story it became a difficult task to finish the book.
I can't say I liked any of the characters very much either. Dr. Marina Singh is weak-willed & sappy; Dr. Annick Swenson is a cold bully; Mr. Fox is a pharmaceutical executive lothario & Anders Eckman is an insignificant man with the morals of an ant that has no idea who he is & neither did I, thus proving that a string of impressive degrees behind ones name is not any indication of a person of morals, compassion, or anything else that goes to make up a decent human being.

SPOILER ALERT:

The child Easter was the only likable character & his fate was not a happy one, being betrayed by those he had become most attached to & trusted was unthinkable, for this reason I became disinterested in the ending of the book & ended up disliking the characters even more than when I started.

Women stripping bark from a tree with their teeth produced such an incredibly ugly image in my head - if there are any tribes in the Amazon that do do this I apologize for feeling this way.

The jungle was well described to the point of making you feel the heat & the bugs in some passages, the descriptive writing was admirable, but otherwise I can't say this was an enjoyable reading experience.

The only State of Wonder left to me is who impregnated Dr. Swenson?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
This book makes reference to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." According to Joseph Conrad, there are three levels of darkness: [1] the darkness of Congo Wilderness [2] the darkness of the Belgiums' cruel treatment of the African natives [3] the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.

I would recommend that the reader think about how the above three points relate to the book "State of Wonder."

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett was a good book. It was fun to read. The words, sentences and paragraphs were well-constructed. The whole book seemed to flow like an Amazon river that at times I would lose track of the plot. I enjoyed the sense of adventure in the story and I enjoyed Marina's character. I don't think she was overly ambitious, nor do I think she had a purpose in her life. Like the early years of Buster Keaton, I believe Marina's character embraced life rather then trying to control it. I believe the book to be mostly about Marina's character however there is no doubt that Ann Patchett did touch on some very modern 2011 issues.

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2011
When I saw this book and heard the author interviewed on CBC it sounded intriguing but I didn't immediately realize she was also the author of 'Bel Canto'. Once I did, it was the reason I purchased 'State of Wonder'. However, this book proved a great disappointment.
Although the descriptions of the Amazon river, indigenous people and jungle were interesting, and Patchett is a skillful craftswoman, even though I read this book only a week ago, I've already forgetten the name of the protagonist. Unlike the characters in 'Bel Canto', those populating S of W, were in no way compelling- perhaps it was the portrayal of them as having 'clinically scientific personalities'(read bloodless) which I found off-putting- the love affair, could it be called that, with her boss; her search for her collegue which ended in a sexual encounter that given his background story seemed to me implausible and almost an afterthought and the brief and mild guilt at returning her young guide to his 'tribe' in a trade made me think this woman was as emotionless as the snake she described in great detail....and the Uber-scientist whose only comment after a caesarian was 'remember to save the specimen'.....chilling. On CBC Patchett spoke about her protagonist as someone shy and reserved and in no way adventurous and as if the book explored her transition beyond that but that just didn't happen in the reading, which I felt was a real error in character development - I you got no sense that her experiences in the jungle changed her in any way and that she'd go back to exactly the same life and relationships in spite of what had happened. How dismal!
However, after such widely divergent feelings over the two Ann Patchett novels I have read, I suppose now to be fair I'll have to read another to see whether she is someone I want to continue to read - as I devour the writings of Joyce Carol Oates and Sebastian Barry!
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