So when the experiments of Cliff Bannaker, a young postdoc in a rut, begin to work, the entire lab becomes giddy with newfound expectations. But Cliff's rigorous colleague and girlfriend, Robin Decker, suspects the unthinkable: that his findings are fraudulent. As Robin makes her private doubts public and Cliff maintains his innocence, a life-changing controversy engulfs the lab and everyone in it.
©2006 Allegra Goodman; (P)2006 Books on Tape
"Extremely engaging....A truly humanist novel from the supposedly antiseptic halls of science." (Publishers Weekly)
"Goodman's sympathetic yet floundering characters are compelling, their conflicts provocative, and her writing spellbinding....Vivid, incisive, and funny." (Booklist)
I had been looking forward to this book, as I had heard good things about Allegra Goodman. As a former "lab rat", I was especially interested in this story. I had read that even as Goodman got the science right, her strong characterization was the true delight of the book. Unfortunately, that's not my experience with it. The science sounds right, but not much else does. Maybe this book is better read than listened to, but to me the prose sounds flat and mundane. The characters remain 2-dimensional, because too much is explicitly told instead of shown through the characters' actions. In many parts of it I felt that Goodman really belabors her point and used 5 sentences when 1 would do. Maybe my problem with it is that it reminds me too much of my experience in the lab: a lot of slogging through repeated experiments, with not much to show for at the end.
I really hated this book. I listened to all of it, hoping it would get better; but it just dragged on and on. Characters called "flawed", "human" and "sympathic" in critic's reviews were, to me, just whiny, morose and utterly unsympathetic. I bought this book aftet reading an article comparing Goodman's style to Jane Austen. Goodman may admire Austen, but Intuition contains none of Austen's subtle wit and incisive characterization. I was alternately boerd and annoyed by Intuition; in fact, I was only ever interested at moments when I thought some interesting tragedy might befall one of the characters. Its a sad state of affairs where you find yourself hoping the main character will be diagonsed with cancer, struck by a car or fall through the ice to drown. Yet, despite some well crafted suspense, nothing ever comes of it; the build up leads nowhere. I can't get back the 14 hours I invested in Intuition, but perhaps I can spare you the time I lost.
Sadly, there were only a few high spots in this book. Cancer research is a fascinating topic, however I found the characters to be shallow and tediously predictable. The foreign accents were a bit hard to believe and consequently were distracting.
Leave this one alone. I work in a lab, and we have more day to day excitment than this has in the total read. When the author talked about the Apple 2E I knew I had picked a clunker!
Goodman immerses the reader in the highly competitive bio-tech research environment and gives the reader a well-constructed story, perfectly-paced, with a wide assortment of detailed and believable characters. That none of these people is totally likeable and there is no real "protagonist" - yet she makes it all work - is more to her credit! I still vote five stars even though there seems to be a compelling but unrealistic preponderance of international players from intellectually advantaged backgounds. But on the other hand, most scientists actually do come from that cultural matrix, but somehow it's all enough to make the reader feel like an underachiever! But that is a minor point. As a bonus "character", there is the city of Boston and its cerebral hub, Cambridge, which will resonate with authenticity in the mind of anyone who has lived or spent any time there.
Props to the narrator too, for characterization and nailing all those accents!
Book Lover and Knitter
This is a novel about what happens in a laboratory staffed with post-docs when pure science is at odds with the desire to have quick results. The two lab directors have different goals. One wants to make a splash in the science world. The other wants to proceed slowly and make sure that the science is pure and replicable. Each of the post-docs also have agendas. This is a fascinating scientific mystery.
A more realistic depiction of the true nature of scientific investigations and creating truly believable characters!
Other books by Allegra Goodman.
She did them all well, though Kate was probably my favorite.
All of them.
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