Research scientist Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil to track down Dr. Annick Swenson, who has disappeared in the Amazon while working on a valuable new drug. The last person who was sent to find her, Marina’s research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend’s death.
©2011 Ann Patchett (P)2011 Oakhill Publishing Limited
"Reading State of Wonder is a sensory experience, and even after it's over you'll keep hearing the sound of insects,and your own head will still be hot." (More magazine)
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"A wonderful story, beautifully told"
I rarely mourn the ending of a book (as I’m usually so excited to start the next!), but I was genuinely grief-stricken in the final few minutes of this book… I was thoroughly engaged from the very beginning and didn’t lose interest throughout.
There is so much to praise, but high on the list is Patchett’s creation of flawed characters I somehow managed to care deeply about.
Much like the dark, wide river where most of the story is staged, State of Wonder is gentle and beautiful, but has the ability to surprise and scare with its unexpected turns and frightening depth. I found myself deeply moved on more than one occasion.
I’m a scientist by profession, and found the narrative about drug development in the Amazon plausible enough to be inoffensive, but unlikely enough to remain interesting.
Nancy Baldwin’s narration was also good. Baldwin has a slight “catch” in her voice that I found quite endearing, and has a gentle tone that suited the book perfectly.
A strong recommendation from me.
"not really, no."
I had liked Belcanto and so I went on and read another one by this Barbara Kingsolver-cum-Sandra Brown author. I was very disappointed. Had this been written by Barbara Kingsolver, whom I don't especially love, but do respect, this novel would have made sense from a narrative and logical and emotional point of view. Had it been written by Sandra Brown, whom I neither respect nor like, it would not have pretended to be something it's not.
Written by Ann Patchett, it's a mishmash of doubtful science and implausible emotions mixed into a very creaky narrative. I did not buy the love relationship; I did not buy the guilt; I intensely disbelieved the revealing discussion between the older and younger scientist on morals and science and staying on in the jungle. I felt she had no idea what she was writing about, emotionally or scientifically or morally or from a strictly narrative point of view. There is no interest in the deeper layers of anything - morality, love, the Amazon, the tribe, humanity, literature... Shallow, pretentious, over-long fluff.
"Great story; poor reader"
This is a good story which kept me involved and wanting more, keeping up its pace until the end. The reader did not do it justice. She reads competently but with no voices at all, just her own same flat American accent and intonations and it's impossible to tell from her voice who is speaking even when the character is Australian. A great shame as I would highly recommend the book otherwise and I still enjoyed it.
"Lost interest half way through"
I didn't finish this. The story is reasonably well put together, and although parts of the plot reminded me a great deal of another book, I don't think it's fair to write it off it solely on that basis. Plots and settings are always shared and this one was chugging along okay. I think perhaps with a different narrator I might well have got to the end, so perhaps the main issue for me was technical issues with the recording. She has a nice speaking voice, but there were a lot of hesitations or half-stoppages in the reading which I found distracting. I kept listening for them rather than listening to the story itself. For an audiobook we pay for, I'd expect that all of these problems would have been over-dubbed during the production. It may be that, after some of the brilliant narrations I've heard on audio now, that my expectations are getting too high. For example, in this particular book, the narrator rendered the Australian character in an American accent which I found very distracting (I live in Australia, so there's a clue to why that issue struck me in particular).
It makes me think that audio is a very risky format for an author, because any issues with the narrator can ruin their otherwise enjoyable novel. In this particular case, I didn't find the story gripping enough to overcome the few issues I had with the narration, but it wouldn't put me off trying another Ann Patchett novel in the future.
"State of Wonder"
I really enjoyed this book despite the reader not doing it justice. I agree with other reviewers here. Don't be put off reading her other books by a less than brilliant reader though as Anne Patchett is an excellent writer.
Do try Bel Canto if you haven't read it; it is wonderful. I'm not sure it appears on Audible but if it doesn't, it should!!! It won the Orange prize for fiction in 2002 I believe
"A rambling book"
This book didn't do anything for me and I gave up half way though. It just seemed to go on and on and take forever to go anywhere. I felt life was too short and that time could be spent on other good reads!
"Good until the end"
This is a slow burn novel. I enjoyed the mystery of what happened to Marina's colleague in the Brazilian jungle. I enjoyed the alien quality of such a completely different place, and enjoyed Marina's basic shrewdness in spite of her naivety. Toward the end the plot sped up, and I did not like the 'resolution' the characters came to. I found myself not liking Marina much, but also not believing she would do what she did, so it didn't seem to matter that she got home to Minnesota at last. Maybe I'm missing something? I really enjoyed the first 80% of the novel, so I gave it 3 overall.
Nancy Baldwin did not seem the right reader for this novel. Her easy narrative pace was good, but she did not bring the various characters fully to life.
I read this book because of the way Liz Gilbert talks about it in Big Magic. That may have over-inflated my expectations.
Unlike the run of the mill cops and robbers fiction I normally read, but not too literary for me to really enjoy reading.
It's different, absorbing, makes you feel like you were there yourself. Believable but exotic story and location.
A year or more since I read it and parts of it seem more like personal memories that bits from a book I "read". I wish there were more of her books on Audible
Great narrater, really captured the scene, I am still thinking about this book and the story line
The descriptions of the Amazon jungle and the aloofness of Dr Swenson
I want the story to keep going
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