July 19, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

A very good summer read! The gentle title of this novel doesn't say much about it - it's a spellbinder (I took that word off the back cover) set in the Amazon jungle and there's hardly a dull or gentle moment in it.

The characters are mostly doctors who work for an American pharmaceutical company. As the story opens, a report comes to the company that one of their researchers has died in Brazil, and the company sends another researcher to find out the circumstances of his death and to report on the elusive and reclusive head researcher and the progress of the project.

The stunning thing about this book is its character development. "Well-rounded" doesn't begin to describe almost every character in the book. Some books I read right through to the end still trying to figure out who was who, but in this book there's no doubt. There are at least seven or eight highly distinctive main characters, and they're far from caricatures. Each has many facets and surprises, all fitting in believably into a fascinating and human whole.

The advertising on the book makes much of a previous novel, Bel Canto, which I will try to get, and Patchett has apparently written at least seven other books.

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