Friday, 18 November 2011

State of Wonder

My autumnal American reading plan is going pretty well except that I sat up waaaaaay too late last Sunday to finish State of Wonder and then felt a bit of a wreck at work the next day. If I told you that the plot revolves around a woman who sails along the Rio Negro to seek closure for the death of her colleague and also to track down a formidable female scientist who is investigating pregnancy in indigenous tribeswomen who remain fertile until their seventies by eating the bark of a tree, you may think it is a little far-fetched!

Dr Marina Singh also loses her luggage, performs a c-section without anaesthetic or instruments, wrestles with an anaconda, has nightmares from the Larium she is taking to prevent malaria and dodges poison arrows. I loved every minute of this novel and it reminded me a little of another favourite, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

By contrast, Anne Tyler is a writer whose novels remain firmly rooted in Baltimore. Eudora Welty admired her work and Nick Hornby has called her 'the greatest novelist writing in English.' I'm enjoying Noah's Compass right now and I'm planning to re-read The Accidental Tourist next. I do like the way Tyler uses the vernacular to create an authentic American voice.

By the way Mrs Miniver's Daughter and Seagreen Reader and Lilac in May I'd love to comment on your blogs but your comments filter does not like me!


mary said...

I'm sorry about that, Nicola, because it's lovely to get comments. I'm not sure what the problem is. I know I had difficulties with other blogs a while ago and it seemed to solve it if I went back and tried to send the comment again. But as you can no doubt tell, I am not technologically gifted.

Mystica said...

This sounds so good and unfortunately not available in the library. I will try the Bell Canto book which is available.

Anonymous said...

I was looking forward to your review, Nicola, and glad to have now read it. It sounds so interesting and, as I previously commented, I loved Bel Canto, so, this will be on my list for a future read. Thank you so much for this review.

Cath said...

State of Wonder sounds fantastic so will add it to my 'look out for to read next year' list. Also like the sound of Anne Tyler. Wondering if her books might be suited to my Amercian states challenge, especially as I've actually spent time in Baltimore.

AJ said...

I like have enjoyed some of Ann Patchett's books, especially Truth and Beauty, but I am probably a bigger fan of Anne Tyler -- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is one of my favorite novels and I am quite fond as well of A Patchwork Plant and Saint Maybe, Of her ealt books I thought a A Slipping Down Life was wonderful,

Cornflower said...

State of Wonder is great, isn't it!

Sunday Taylor said...

I can't wait to read Ann Patchett's new book. Thanks for your review. Ann Tyler's "Accidental Tourist" is one of my favorites. A good one to reread.

JoAnn said...

Just started the audio version of State of Wonder yesterday. I need to get a print copy so I can read at home, too. I didn't want to get out of the car!

Anbolyn (Gudrun's Tights) said...

This is definitely one I want to read, but I am waiting 'til the waiting list at my library is shorter! It has been a hit, more than a lot of her others I think.

debbie bailey said...

This book is on my TBR list. I believe I even own it. That tells you how many books I own which haven't been read!

I LOVED The Poisonwood Bible so much that I still remember it years after reading it. Some books I can't remember a few days after reading them. If State of Wonder is like The P-wood Bible, I'm moving it to the front of my list.

Tracey said...

Those late nights reading seem a great idea at the time don't they?! I did exactly the same thing with this book - the first book by Ann Patchett I'd read, I loved her writing.

I haven't read anything by Ann Tyler but The Accidental Tourist film is an old favourite 0:)

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

The protagonist in this book makes me feel a bit boring. I feel I should go out and wrestle tigers, or something!

Darlene said...

Nicola, try signing in to your blogger account before commenting. Also, uncheck the box that says 'stay signed in' if it's checked.

I found this helped me when I was having problems...good luck!

Becca said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one, too. I think she's done some marvelous work with this book. I couldn't put it down either!

Anne Tyler is wonderful. I like Gail Godwin's novels too - she's a bit older, but her books and I have been great friends for a long time. She's from North Carolina and most of her books are set there. I especially love Father Melancholy's Daughter and Southern Family. Re-read both of them last summer.

A Bookish Space said...

Anne Tyler is an author I want to read more of. I was underwealmed by The Amateur Marriage but enjoyed Digging to America. Looking forwards to your thoughts on Noah's Compass!

Vintage Reading said...

Mary, hi, I'll have another go. As you say, comments are good!

Mystica, I couldn't get any AP titles from my library either. I don't believe SoW is available in paperback yet, but Bel Canto is. Hope you enjoy it!

lifeonthecuff, I will look out for your review!

Cath, you cannot have an American challenge without Anne Tyler! I hope you will post a review.

AJ, I must confess that I found Dinner at the Homesick Resteraunt very sad. Adored Patchwork Planet. I'm currently reading Digging to America. If you recommend A Slipping Down Life I'll add it to my list.

Cornflower, yes. One for your book group I think!

Sunday, I've just re-read AT. If I could write I'd like to write like Anne Tyler.

JoAnn, it gripped me, too. I could have been on that boat!

Anbolyn, I've got The Magician's Assistant to read next. Can't wait!

Debbie, oh I adored The Poisonwood Bible, too. I've never loved another Kingsolver as much!

Tracey, I rarely burn the midnight oil now. Can't cope the next day! I've not seen the film version of AT. I'm curious about it, though.

Cath, that's what I call a heroine!

Ooh Darlene, thanks! Will try.

Becca, I'll check out Gail Godwin, thanks for the recommendation.

A Bookish Space, I'm reading Digging to America right now. Only a chapter in but I like it.

Ellen said...

Something about State of Wonder hasn't been appealing to me (I think it's that, as you say, it seems a little far-fetched) but now you've got me sold. Actually, I'm trying to remember if I skimmed by this title on my kindle (I am that person - even when I can't go to a real bookstore, I'm buying more novels than I can keep track of). If I did, I may have to start reading the second I'm done with this comment. I had no idea Anne Tyler was so widely praised by other authors, I have to see what they admired about her work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicola: I enjoyed State of Wonder although it took me awhile to get into it - I LOVED Run and really liked Bel Canto.

I appreciate the fact that Patchett's books are always different, but that also means that some have grabbed me more than others... Kathy aka Ruby

Belle said...

I just returned from what I call the Grand Southern Literary Tour. One of the places I visited was Eudora Welty's home in Jackson, Mississippi. It is just as she left it, and I kept expecting her to walk in from the garden and offer us lemonade.

I also visited Ann Patchett's new independent bookstore, Parnassus, in Nashville. Ann wasn't there but I did write her a note and Diane the Bookseller said Ann comes by and collects her mail. I am hoping to hear from her.

If you are interested in reading about the trip (I also stopped in Oxford, Miss. (Faulkner) and Memphis (Shelby Foote) here is a link to the beginning of the pilgrimmage. I had a blast.