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on 5 April 2017
Having first read "Commonwealth," and now "State Of Wonder," Ann Patchett is fast becoming one of my very favourite writers. I do plan on reading the rest of her novels someday. She is such a brilliant writer. Her characters are so real, the dialogue flows so naturally, she can express so much feeling in very few words, and her use of flashback is perfectly executed, done in an almost cinematic way. In "Commonwealth," she employs the flashback technique quite extensively. The narrative in "State Of Wonder," is a bit more linear, if that sort of thing is important to you (it isn't to me)! But there are flashback points at just the right moments.

I won't go over the plot synopsis of "State Of Wonder," as that has been said extensively in various other reviews. Needless to say, it's not a million miles away from "Heart Of Darkness," and it touches upon the issue of the ethical dubiousness of exploiting indigenous tribes in the name of medical research. That's an oversimplification, however.

It is more about the personal journey of the main character, Dr. Marina Singh, who is sent on a mission of mercy to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of her beloved colleague, Dr. Anders Eckman, in the jungles of the Amazon. He had previously been sent there to investigate the elusive Dr. Annick Swenson and her research involving a tribe called the Lakashi whose women mysteriously appear to remain fertile well into their 70's. The drug company they both work for wants to expedite this research of course, as this could be potentially very profitable indeed. Along the way, Marina confronts the major event in her past which put her life on its current trajectory (Dr. Swenson was her nemesis back in medical school), examines the current state of her life (single, childless, 42 years old, in a relationship with the CEO of the company, that is going nowhere), reconciles the various conflicting parts of herself, and makes the most profound connections in the most unexpected ways to the people with whom she is thrown together. Oh, and along the way, she just happens to do battle with an anaconda (and that is not the scariest thing she confronts by any means!). I won't give away anything more save that the ending of this beautiful book is sublime (by contrast, I found the rather abrupt ending in "Commonwealth" a tad disappointing).

It is apparent that a common theme in Ann Patchett's writing is that of coming to terms with a pivotal event in your past that sets the rest of the course of your life in motion. In "Commonwealth," it was a childhood accident with tragic consequences, and in "State Of Wonder," it was a confidence shattering near fatal error made as a junior doctor. The other important theme in her novels appears to be people thrown together in circumstances beyond their control who go on to make the deepest connections and whose lives remain forever intertwined. In the case of "Commonwealth," it is the children of two families thrown together through second marriages of their parents. In the case of "State Of Wonder," it is the "family" of doctors and office colleagues thrown together in the most extreme circumstances. Their connections to one another are embodied physically in the form of an enigmatic young deaf boy called "Easter," (an aptly symbolic name, which becomes apparent towards the end).

"State Of Wonder," mesmerised me and will stay with me for some time to come. I would say this is a great introduction to Ann Patchett if you are unfamiliar with her work. But, I would also recommend "Commonwealth," and look forward to reading her other books.
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on 11 February 2018
Wow!! This story is a wonderful adventure of stunning scope and scenery. Marina Singh is sent into the isolated regions of the Rio Negro to investigate the death of one colleague and meet up with her former professor and team leader Dr Swenson. Dr Swenson has been pursuing a biologic drug candidate which could revolutionise treatment for women. The investors are keen to understand more but it is shrouded in secrecy. Will they ever get it out of the Amazon basin or will it remain another secret of the rainforest?

The narrative keeps us balanced between the wonders of the remote rainforests and the dangers ready to jump at any moment. The writing allows us to step inside this world and see the expanse and allure of the rainforests, feel the humidity and atmosphere of the jungle, and get a sense of the hidden tribes that exist in these regions. Many tribes have never engaged with the outside world and some are still cannibalistic, while others have accepted strangers. Each tribe is very territorial with their own unique characteristics and secrets. The rituals and cultures dictate so much of the actions taken and many are just so alien to our experiences. The pace of the book is gentle but you just want to keep turning the pages. It is a brilliant engrossing story of exceptional insight.
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on 16 October 2016
Review from AntonySimpson.com:

State of Wonder is a masterpiece novel, written by true wordsmith Ann Patchett. Patchett is unbelievably talented and this book left me with a feeling of Wow.

State of Wonder starts with the death of Anders Eckman, a Research Doctor for pharmaceutical company Vogel. He was in the Amazon searching for Dr. Swenson, who had gone AWOL.

Marina Singh, Anders’ colleague, goes on a journey to the Amazon to uncover the mystery surrounding his death. On this journey, Marina will have to confront her past, learn the progress of Dr. Swenson’s research in the present, with the hopes that the life-long fertility drug will save Vogel’s future.

But what she finds is so much more than what she expected. Marina goes on a journey that transforms her from within.

State of Wonder readers will forget to eat, go to bed later than normal and completely lose track of time. Purely because they are driven to read on by all aspects of this brilliant story: the plot, the description and the characters.

The complexity of the plot is utterly captivating, completely compelling and has some great twists. Every aspect of this book’s plot is strong: the beginning, middle and end. Patchett’s superb description in State of Wonder sent my imagination into overdrive and immersed me fully into that beautiful but deadly part of the world.

Patchett’s characters are brilliantly crafted. Patchett explores a range ethical issues through her characters perspectives and gives some interesting points of view. These points of view are consistent with her characters and leave the reader plenty to think over, long after they have finished reading the book. State of Wonder is one of those rare books that leaves the reader feeling somehow changed inside.

State of Wonder is beyond marvellous. It is probably the best work of fiction that I’ve read in years. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars, I’d give it 6 stars.

State of Wonder far exceeded any expectations I had for it. My copy of the book had the old book cover which was both fantastic and appealing. I don’t know what the publishers were thinking with the new book cover (pictured above). It looks cheap and does nothing to attract a potential reader. If you’re thinking about picking up this novel, ignore any feelings about the cover and do. It is an essential read for any lover of fiction.

I cannot heap enough praise on Patchett for this novel. State of Wonder will leave readers in a State of Wonder. See what I did there? Despite this play on words, that is actually how a reader will feel when he or she finishes the book.

State of Wonder is available to buy on Amazon and at all good bookshops.
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on 6 September 2016
Ann Patchett is an author in my second eleven, so to speak - I won't read or enjoy all her books, but the ones I do like I like enormously. This is one of them. A really fascinating plot supported by Patchett's acute observation of people and and nature and her very readable writing style makes this both a page-turner and a book to savour. There's a main character who has committed a bad professional error early in her career and therefore changed focus, a prickly academic doctor/teacher devoted to her research, ostensibly on behalf of the pharmaceutical company who is paying her, and a rich assortment of minor cast members including doctors, natives, and those getting by on their wits in the jungle. Pure pleasure
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2012
I loved Bel Canto (Ann Patchett's Orange prize winner)when I read it a few years ago. I was engrossed in it from start to finish and found it gripping throughout. I was delighted therefore to buy State of Wonder a few months ago when it was on special offer for Kindle and knowing it was likely to be a demanding read I waited until I had the time and space to enjoy it.

To say that I found it a frustrating read would be an understatement. The plot of State of Wonder has been written about elsewhere in these reviews so I won't reiterate it here save to say that I found aspects of it somewhat ludicrous. But what was most frustrating was the long, slow build up where nothing much happened. I considered giving up on it several times but had a look at reviews and found that several readers who gave it 4 or 5 stars had also found the beginning slow. So I persevered hoping that I would start to enjoy it. I didn't though, not really. I thought the writing in places was very good and I certainly felt that I got a sense of place from the book but I didn't relate to any of the characters at all and I find that when I can't do that then I can't really engage with a book in any meaningful way and this was no exception.
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on 11 March 2013
Rather slow and lacking in depth, with rather cliched characters. I was waiting for some great revelation or deep intrigue, or at least some sort of crescendo, and while her discoveries about the research and the tribes in the amazon were undeniably odd, it never really delivered. It sort of ground along to the end, and then it ended. The only thing that kept me going through it is that it's very evocative of what it's like to be in the amazon jungle - anyone who's been there will really relate to it, but other than that, a vaguely enjoyable and undemanding book if you don't have something more engaging to hand.
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on 12 April 2018
It wasn't until I was 60% into the book that I actually enjoyed reading it. I found I didn't care about the main characters. But in the end the story was thrilling and worth persisting for.
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on 26 July 2012
I bought this book on a whim as it was recommended after I read the equally wonderful The Song of Achilles. Patchett successfully creates what seems to be another world in this book and, like its main protagonist Marina, we find ourselves slowly sucked in, ending up "going native". I couldn't get this world out of my head and, while the denouement may be a little rushed and predictable, it's less about the destination than the journey, to coin a phrase. I'm a picky reader who regularly gives up on books that don't grip and I loved it, so give it a go.
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on 17 March 2013
Whilst this novel is not a great work of literature, it is nevertheless highly readable. The main focus of the plot, Marina, is well drawn, as one follows her quest to shed her feelings of blame and guilt for a serious error committed by her younger self. 'State of Wonder' stands on its own, but may gain an extra dimension if read as a 21st century companion to the early 20th century 'Heart of Darkness'. Female characters appear stronger than their male counterparts, in contrast to Joseph Conrad's much more compact story. Ann Patchett's strength is her skill at vivid descriptive passages.
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on 10 February 2016
Enjoyed this and found it really interesting as I've never learnt much about the Amazon. Easy to get into which is always a positive for me. Reinforced my feelings of never wanting to visit this particular location!
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