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The elusive Doctor Annick Swensen has been living amongst the Lakashi tribe in the tangled waters of the Brazilian Rio Negro River, where the women are able to get pregnant and give birth right until the end of their lives.  Dr Swensen is conducting research regarding their fertility and how whatever enables them to reproduce into their 70s, can be used for a fertility drug in the Western world.  But nobody has heard from Dr Swensen for a long time, nobody can contact her in her remote destination, and when scientist, Doctor Anders Eckman went out there to find her and determine how the research was coming along, all that came back was a curt letter informing them that he had died and been buried there.  His colleague Marina Singh is dispatched there to find out what happened to Anders, and to ascertain the progress of Dr Swensen’s work.  Reluctantly she goes, and what she discovers changes her whole world.

I had previously read Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, and had loved that book, so although the synopsis of State of Wonder did not interest me as much, I wanted to read it….and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is something about Patchett’s writing – it is so descriptive and evocative, without being ‘flowery’ – and her characters are so utterly believable, that I could  not help but be drawn in.

The book is written in the third person, but from Marina’s point of view, and I liked her a lot.  She was a sympathetic character – far more so than Dr Swensen, who (intentionally, I’m sure) was written as undoubtedly brilliant, but headstrong and blunt to the point of rudeness.

The story is detailed and so much happens, and I was carried along by all of it.  The ending was not what I expected, and not really what I wanted (I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that it is somewhat downbeat), but it worked.

Overall I really enjoyed this, and will be certainly be looking out for more books by Ann Patchett.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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