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Further to: Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Having formed my own opinion of State of Wonder, I just looked at a bunch of reviews, notably from The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.  Of these, only the Times gave the book what I would call a favorable review.

I felt that the two negative reviews criticized the novel for not doing things that I didn’t think it set out to do in the first place.

There is a faux romantic interest in the early pages of the novel.  The negative reviewers criticized it for not capturing its intensity, but the romance is faux and the key to that is precisely the absence of intensity.  These reviewers were let down when they discovered there was less to the relationship than met the eye, but I never felt there was any serious heat in the relationship and wasn’t surprised when that was made manifest in the course of events.

The two negative reviews also complained that the descriptions of Manaus, the Amazon jungle, and the culture of the native tribes were not sufficiently nuanced.  These would be reasonable criticisms of a travelog or an ethnological study, but the narrator is neither a travel journalist nor an ethnologist.  She (the narrator) may be forgiven I think for her unsophisticated take on these aspects of her story.

Mid-book report: Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I’m a bit more than halfway through Ann Patchett’s  State of Wonder (2011).  So far, I’m enjoying it.  More, I would say, than I enjoyed Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot at the middle.

Parading my prejudices: I remember Patchett’s Bel Canto kept me going up until near the end where it fell apart.  I’m worrying that Patchett is a good story teller, but not a good story ender, so I’m bracing for disappointment at the end.  But I’m having a hard time putting it down at the moment.

I’ll let you know how it comes out.