Best-selling author Ann Patchett and accomplished actor Hope Davis make a stellar combination for Patchett's latest novel, State of Wonder, an homage to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Davis deftly voices an international cast of medical researchers in the Amazon jungle. Her talents enhance Patchett's artistically descriptive prose, in many cases coiling the jungle imagery closer than you may want.
Hope Davis voices Dr. Marina Singh's stoic professionalism as she, a pharmacologist, is sent to the Amazon jungle by her employer to seek information about the death of a colleague. Only months earlier Dr. Anders Eckman had also been sent by the pharmaceutical company to investigate the secretive research of formidable Dr. Annick Swenson. In a terse, unemotional letter, Dr. Swenson has announced Dr. Eckman to be dead and buried.
Patchett's gift is to give characters multiple, very human layers, and Davis' gift is to bring those creations to life. Dr. Singh's reserve falls apart as she is plagued by unsettling nightmares and vivid memories of past medical mistakes. Dr. Annick Swenson's imperious personality has, through Hope Davis, the ability to intimidate through your earbuds. Dr. Swenson's arrogance keeps everyone quaking until, as the story unfolds, Davis' tone allows hints of humanity to ease through the doctor's sharp-edged exterior. Davis easily moves from dialects as the individual personalities - among them, a West African doctor, an Indonesian researcher, and a self-absorbed Australian couple - flow one from the other. Davis gives a brilliant performance of a prickly, uncomfortable argument between the married couple Alan and Nancy Saturn, making all who are listening want to distract themselves with the scenery.Terrain itself becomes if not a character, a force, in State of Wonder. Contrasting Dr. Singh's beloved Minnesota plains with the claustrophobic, crawling, itching, frighteningly enveloping jungle, Patchett's words offer Hope Davis another opportunity to shine artistically. Davis infuses Patchett's prose with palpable energy, allowing listeners to exult in the wide, open prairies of the Midwest and then sense the creeping terror of forbidding, dangerously alive Amazonian jungle. While Davis' depiction of a confrontation with an anaconda is not to be missed, be forewarned that Patchett's imagery and Davis' performance will put anyone listening right beside the panic-stricken fictional characters as a life-and-death battle ensues.
For fans of Ann Patchett, State of Wonder is all that one has been waiting for and more. The story has as many twists and turns as, well, the Amazon jungle itself. And Hope Davis takes the joy of a new Ann Patchett book to an even higher level of pleasure through her masterful performance. It is a fantastically compelling adventure trip without the hazards of incessant bug bites, poisonous critters, or sweltering heat. Carole Chouinard
Ann Patchett raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.
Research scientist Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have disappeared in the Amazon while working on an extremely valuable new drug. The last person who was sent to find her died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding answers to the questions about her friend's death, her company's future, and her own past.
Once found, Dr. Swenson is as imperious and uncompromising as ever. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina.
State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the listener into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.
©2011 Ann Patchett (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers
“An expansive page-turner . . . Patchett’s fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure . . . that readers will hate to see end.” (Publishers Weekly starred review)
“An engaging, consummately told tale.” (New York Times)
“A superbly rendered novel. . . . Patchett’s portrayal is as wonderful as it is frightening and foreign. Patchett exhibits an extraordinary ability to bring the horrors and the wonders of the Amazon jungle to life, and her singular characters are wonderfully drawn. . . . Powerful and captivating.” (Library Journal, starred review)
The lead character is rather feeble and whiney in the first 2/3rds of the book and then magically gets her game on with no real explanation as to why. The plot is very slow to develop but the last third of the book is interesting, and culminates with an interesting if not a tad unbelievable twist in the end.
This book is different. Worth the read if you are looking for a change of pace. I often read mysteries, historical fiction.
Even Hope Davis's weak, nasal voice can't hurt this novel. (She's a fine actor but few actors are also fine readers.) Don't look for wild action, except for a few scenes. Patchett's fiction unfolds slowly but with a relentless tension. Characters are vividly drawn and the setting, especially in the Amazon, becomes a character in itself.
The book starts slow but gets rolling in the second half. Part of the problem is the narrator, who has a wide range with regard to creating the characters through voices, but who reads the book in sort of a sad-sack manner otherwise. The main character just seems too maudlin. Perhaps that is what the author wanted.....a feeling of an impending doom. When we finally get to something approaching a plot, the book and the narrator seem to magically improve so that the end product is one worth listening to. Much of the plot is a bit fanciful, but if you can suspend disbelief for a few hours, some degree of pleasure is likely to land on you.
I LOVED OUR RELUCTANT HEROINE AS SHE GROWS EMOTIONALLYI SO MANY WAYS.
THE WHOLE BOOK WAS JUST FUN TO READ (HEAR).
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
I truly enjoyed State of Wonder, but I'm having some trouble articulating just why I liked it so much. I think that it is mainly due to the compelling, semi-scientific story and Ann Patchett's skillful use of language and storytelling. Dr. Marina Singh and Dr. Annick Swenson are both very interesting, well-written characters, and the exploration of their teacher-student relationship is a large part of what makes this book great. Mentors are often held in awe along with a small bit of fear, espec...moreI truly enjoyed State of Wonder, but I'm having some trouble articulating just why I liked it so much. I think that it is mainly due to the compelling, semi-scientific story and Ann Patchett's skillful use of language and storytelling. Dr. Marina Singh and Dr. Annick Swenson are both very interesting, well-written characters, and the exploration of their teacher-student relationship is a large part of what makes this book great. Mentors are often held in awe along with a small bit of fear, especially when they have had a large part in shaping your life, but that relationship changes when both people mature and their paths diverge. I won't recount the storyline, but I found myself immersed in this book in spite of some of the more ludicrous details of the plot. I don't think that a pharmaceutical company would keep sending lab scientists to the jungle in search of the previously "lost" scientist, and the fertility drug research seemed very strange to me. I think a safe and efficacious anti-malarial would have been quite believable. It is due to Patchett's writing skill, replete with details of insects and anacondas, that I loved this book despite some of the less believable details.
The story got bogged down in the beginning, The last half was good, It held my interest, but the ending came much too quickly. The author had good material and a good story going.......and then it ended. Why?
While I enjoyed the book, I felt it was a little drawn out and fairly predictable. The narration, however, was fantastic.
I couldn't imagine a better story to listen to or a better actor as a reader. Such quality in both areas. I was sad for it to end, and that has not been common in my Audible experience.
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