There were times while reading the book where I almost made up my mind to give it four stars simply because of the sheer descriptive power on display, whether it's used in capturing the general atmosphere in tropical jungles, recreating the breathtaking fight with an anaconda or turning into words the trickiest and most elusive human emotions. The fact that I eventually didn't go with that score is in no way rebuff of the author's penmanship. This is the third novel by Patchett that I've read, and her masterful command of the language is as captivating as always- how she describes scenery to make all the colors explode in front of your eyes and chronicles sequences of intense motion to convey that utterly three dimensional feeling of pressure and velocity is just fascinating.
That said, certain plot points of this book do come across as rather implausible to me. Such plotting weaknesses might be inevitable when one casts the net of the story so wide to cover two completely different worlds/cultures. But the truth is, at the heart of the story lies the conflict of values, sensibilities and emotions, a conflict born out of the drastically different backgrounds of the characters; and if these characters and their very specific motivations can't be accounted for accurately and believably, all the elaborately rendered exotic backdrop of the story wouldn't be enough to cover it, however ambitious the whole undertaking may be.
Among the most troublesome plot designs for me is the ending. I don't have any problem with the surprise reveal near the end, but what came after that knocks the story squarely back down to an artificial construct that feels forced to me.
In all fairness, however, this book is well worth reading, as are probably all of Patchett's other efforts. It's mesmerizing to see how she uses words and whenever a clever plot device catches up with those words, it's pure magic....Continua
Excellent - a cross between Heart of darkness and Medicine man, but sufficiently original to hold its own. Some beautifully observed rain forest scenes.
To read my comment in Spanish, click here: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2012/06/state-of-wonder-ann-patchett.html
This is the story of an unremarkable scientist that one day finds herself traveling to the exotic Amazonian jungle. It describes her travel, her misfortunes while trying to adapt to such wild environment, and the development of what seems to be a story much bigger than one single book. I did not find a lot of substance in it, found it full of common places about the green exotic jungle, and really regretted the author's efforts to keep the plot as "movie translatable" as possible. However, I liked the way it is written. The author is such a great communicator, that the only thing you can do after reading her descriptions, is thank her for being so neat and precise. The novel is really entertaining, and while the story is not really valuable or interesting, the form of the book is impeccable. I can see why it was nominated to the Orange Prize, and I can see clearly why it didn't win it.