😐 😐 😐
When her colleague Anders dies of fever while visiting a research project in the Amazon, Marina is persuaded by her boss and Anders’ wife to go there herself to find out more about what happened to him and to check on how the project is progressing. So after a long (and long drawn-out) journey Marina finds herself working beside her old teacher, researching a tribe of Amazonians whose women continue to have children into old age, in the hope of finding a new fertility treatment.
Patchett uses language well and the book is packed full of descriptions conjuring up the steamy, exotic and dangerous rainforest. Marina is a sympathetic heroine with a troubled past and there is a cast of well-drawn interesting characters for her to interact with. Patchett touches on, but then glosses over, some of the ethical questions around scientific research involving primitive peoples.
Unfortunately the plot, which starts out promisingly, becomes increasingly far-fetched as the book progresses, eventually reaching a point where I found it difficult to suspend disbelief enough to continue to care about the outcome. This was just as well though since, in order to achieve a dramatic climax at the end, the author suddenly had her main protagonists act completely outwith the characters she had so carefully built up for them throughout the book. I was left in a state of wonder myself at why the author had not realised that even fictional characters have to think and act consistently with the natures they have been given.
In conclusion, a promising start, a disappointing middle and a lazy ending – a book where the undoubted quality of the writing makes it an easy read but ultimately can’t disguise the weaknesses in the plot.