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State of Wonder

Book Review - State of Wonder

We read State of Wonder at our last meeting on 9th January. For what we are reading now and the date of our next meeting go the Book Club page here.
Product DetailsAmong the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson's work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate.
A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.
Now Marina Singh, Anders' colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders's wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend's steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.
What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination.
For the first time in many months the entire group of members present at the meeting agreed that this was an excellent book and everyone had enjoyed it and would wholeheartedly recommend it to others.    The writing was extremely evocative and descriptive – cinematic in parts - and gave us a true sense of place; although sometimes descriptions intervened in the smooth flow of the story. The first section of the book was somewhat slow and caused a number of people to question whether they wanted to continue, but the writing pace and the action sped up once Marina reached the jungle and then the book was unputdownable. Perhaps the slowness of the first part enhanced the sense of waiting for something to happen.
All characters in the book were extremely well described and their differences well highlighted - from the self-centred Annick to the happy-go-lucky (and frankly not very intelligent) Bovenders, the cold Mr Fox, the lovable Easter, and the gullible and indecisive Marina who just did what she was told by virtually anyone. 
A number of ethical considerations were raised by the book and discussed: Whether it was a good thing for women over the normal child bearing years to give birth? Would it be right to take a child out of his environment into the ‘civilised world’? Did Annick lose her baby as a punishment for messing about with nature? We considered the element of passion in the book and came to the conclusion that the only relationships that contained any sense of passion were between Easter (a child) and various adults – not between adults and their so-called partners. Anders’s wife Karen appeared to be the only genuinely passionate character in the book. Although Marina was having an affair she still seemed to be looking for someone - perhaps as a father figure. She still dreamed about her father and seemed attracted to older men. Even Marina's brief liaison at the end of the book did not seem particularly passionate and did not serve much purpose in the story except to leave us with the question of whether she could be pregnant.
Altogether a fantastic book and everyone should read it who hasn't yet!