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Ann Patchett

Award-winning novelist Ann Patchett, on her new novel State of Wonder

Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett

Your book has won positive reviews in India. How was the overall feedback?

The response was good on my book tours, though many reviews are yet to reach me.

There’s an India connection in the book. You have an Indian protagonist, Marina Singh.

Yes, it was important that the character had made long trips as a child, so it made me think having an Indian father would work well.

Have you been to India?

No, but I want to go. I hear there is interest about my book, so perhaps I will get invited!

The novel is being compared to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Traces of it are there, especially in the journey, but so are probably other influences, like Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, and James’s novels.

What led you to explore this plot?

I wanted two strong female lead characters, who were not falling in love, or being victimised, but breaking new ground.

Your novel follows a traditional narrative, with a hero, a villain...

I like a real sense of a story, which could make my work seem old-fashioned, because a story and a plot isn’t something you see often today.

The Amazonian forest works as a character in your novel.

I loved the idea of the jungle being the god of the story—expressed in a film on the Amazon. Then, when I went there, my experiences added texture to the novel. Like I was in a boat and one of my co-passengers suddenly pulled in an anaconda out of the water. I used that incident.

Would you call this a medical thriller?

I would call it a literary novel, though a little more exciting than most.

How would you compare it to your breakthrough novel Bel Canto?

I don’t compare my books. I write the book I like to read, and I love all of them.

What’s next?

Just more book tours and interviews.

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