Archive for the ‘Psychological Novel’ Category

Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I finished Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder.  I am pleased to report that I enjoyed it all the way through to the end and I recommend it to you without hesitation.

The book’s headline premise is this: A researcher in the Amazon has discovered a tribe whose women remain fertile their entire lives.  A drug company that wants to commercialize the discovery has lost contact with the researcher and sends a pharmacologist, Marina Singh (the protagonist) down to Brazil to find out what is going on and what really happened to the last pharmacologist they sent down (he is reported to have died of a tropical fever and buried in the jungle).

I personally didn’t think such a drug would be a big hit, and the reaction of the women in the Writers Group today (when I told them the premise) thought it wouldn’t be a boon to any woman over sixty under any circumstances.  It’s not giving anything away to say that Patchett’s protagonist doesn’t think it’s a great idea either.  But, luckily, that is neither here nor there as far as the story is concerned.

The characters are interesting, the settings are nicely drawn, and the plot is believable enough (believe it or not).  If there’s a fault, it’s in the opening pages that take place at the pharmaceutical company headquarters in Minnesota, but once the heroine is on her way to Brazil, the plot starts to move and it’s a good read to the end.


On Finishing Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

I don’t agree with Emperor Joseph II that Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro had “too many notes,”  but I do think that Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot had too many words.  The extra words aren’t evenly distributed.  They seem to have piled up in the middle third of the book: starting with the initial descriptions of Leonard’s manic depressive psychosis and continuing through the strangely unmoving descriptions of Mitchell’s experiences as a volunteer in Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in India.  I just didn’t care.

I enjoyed the last 80 or so pages (the last 20% of the book)–the two final chapters in which 1) Leonard and Madeleine get married, honeymoon, and melt down; and 2) Madeleine and Mitchell do the right thing and don’t even think about getting married after all.  Thank goodness for small favors.  I couldn’t have dealt with an ending that saddled Madeleine with Mitchell.   Eeeeeew.

The actual ending–the author’s summing up of the plot through Madeleine and Mitchell’s final conversation–is a bit much, although it is pleasantly self-referential.  It didn’t make me smile, exactly, but the corners of my mouth did turn up a little bit.