State of Wonder … a review

Ann Patchett’s book was my first read from last year’s Orange Prize shortlist. Patchett has won the Orange Prize earlier for her fourth novel, Bel Canto. Naturally, the fact that she had made it to the shortlist again impressed me and I decided that of the 6 books in the list, I would pick this one up first. So. State of Wonder opens up with an employee of a drug company being stubborn and not staying in proper touch with them. She is in the Amazon researching a fertility drug by studying the Lakashi tribeswomen, who are known to be fertile lifelong.


In order to find out about her progress and what she’s up to, the company sends another employee Anders, the news of whose death reaches the director Mr. Fox and Marina Singh, out lovely protagonist. Now, Anders’ wife refuses to accept the news of his death, that comes via a terse and little worded letter from the camp and begs Marina to go find out, and well, find him. She’s that convinced!

Marina has enough issues of her own to deal with. And, as you may guess, there may be something happening with Mr. Fox that she isn’t quite sure of. Now, the reader is taken into the depths of the Amazon with Marina. Some very interesting characters are encountered en-route. The head researcher Dr Swenson is a huge enigma, as are most of the doctors that work with her.

We meet children and trees, magic mushrooms and pregnant tribeswomen, cannibalistic neighbour tribes and snakes. There are surgeries and hair braids, strange rituals and habits. In some ways, it vaguely reminded me of The Hungry Tide, but that was a much more impressive read. The book is very complete, very meticulous, very thorough. However, it lacks a spark. I read through it too comfortably, easily putting it down when I needed to, easily picking it up again from where I left off – a very convenient book. It didn’t come up in my dreams or stay with me after I finished it; in that it lacked something.

Maybe that’s why it didn’t win the prize.

Quote:  “Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.” 

Joys and Sorrows of Owning a Kindle Keyboard …10 reasons

As promised, here is an unbiased view of owning a Kindle from a very avid reader.

To start off, I’m not a gadget freak, I actively dislike gadgets. Unlike most of my peers, I don’t have a touchscreen phone (or even a smartphone) or a tab. I used my previous laptop for six years and would’ve happily continued had it not been deemed a dinosaur and basically un-repairable. That was precisely why I would probably never have bought myself a Kindle. I wasn’t sure. Just as well that it was a present.

Having said that, it was a lovely present for someone who reads as much as I do. Now to what I really think about it…

1. PRO There is virtually no difference between reading a book and reading the screen, the reading experience  is the same. There is no glare like the computer screen and the eyes don’t get as fatigued either. That is very impressive.

2. CON Show me one Kindle that smells like a book! To me, nothing can replace the feeling of sniffing at a new or old book and inhaling the scent of stories, of characters, of long ago times. There is nothing that feels like the physical act of turning a page, slipping in a bookmark (reluctantly), of furrows on a spine. Nope, I missed that…

3. PRO It is a blessing to be able to choose font size. Oh! I remember reading my edition of Antony and Cleopatra, font size freakin’ 7. 7! I almost went blind! The first time I picked up Gone With the Wind, I put it down after 50 pages because the font size irked me. Blessing to be able to choose.

4. CON Not a lot of people read these days. To be honest, I loved the attention I got whenever I was spotted with a ‘heavy’ book. I loved how people perceived me when I read Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde or Dickens. On so many instances, people have approached me and struck up a conversation to find out why I didn’t look like a nerd if I really was reading nerdy books! On so many instances, i have asked people how they like the book they were reading ’cause I was meaning to pick up the same…
On a Kindle, you never know what a gem/what shit one is reading.

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. –P.J. O’Rourke

5. PRO So many books I have read over the years, so many book I have wanted to re-read. Now, finally, I can re-read all the Famous Fives and kiddy books. Books that I could never carry around because they finish too quickly. Going back to them is so much easier!
Also, no more worrying what I’ll do if my book finishes!

6. CON I love being in bookstores! I usually spend at least half an hour every week just walking around, browsing, and touching books I want to read. I am going to continue doing that, but maybe the number of people doing that is going down?

7. PRO Obviously, the light is much appreciated. I love reading before I go to bed and it helps immensely that now I don’t have to get out of my cozy duvet and switch off the light!

8. CON Since I have become a student at a foreign country, I have not been able to afford books. Really, I have no idea why books cost so much in the UK! Anyway, along with that, I have also discovered the joy of finding a book in a charity shop! I wouldn’t give it up… it is an amazing feeling going into a shop and having absolutely NO idea what to find.

9. PRO As I said, I like to read before bed. Which means, reading lying down angles my poor neck and every 30 seconds or so, I have to swap the way the book is held. You get the drift if you read lying down; but, with my Kindle, voila! Magic, just stay in one horrible posture angle throughout!

10. CON When I look at one of my books, there is a certain feeling associated with it. All the books I’ve read, all. It’s like having different friends, each one has spoken different things, showed different sights… how do I have separate unique feelings anymore when all I’m looking at looks the same?

Lastly, books = paper = pulp = trees = deforestation. Maybe using a Kindle might just save some trees.

What are your opinions?