A State of Wonder

Sometimes I read a book that is so beautiful and perfect that I am inspired as a writer. This happened about twelve years ago with The Girl in the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. When I was finished reading it, I wanted to write again. I’d given up on writing, decided I didn’t have it in me to write an entire novel, but after reading this book, I changed my mind. I wanted to write. I had no illusions that I could write something as beautiful as The Girl in the Pearl Earring, but I wanted to try. I have tried and I’ve been mostly happy with what I accomplished.  I thank Tracy Chevalier for that.

Sometimes I read a book that is so beautiful and perfect that I feel like I should just give up as a writer. I could never create anything that comes anywhere near this, and so why bother?

This happened today when I finished State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. This book is perfection. The prose is both beautiful and clear. Sentences flow like a slow river, peaceful but with purpose. Her characters are interesting and flawed and only knowable in part. The way I viewed them changed as I got to know them better, subtly, until I realized my opinion had changed at some point, but where? The story isn’t a thriller, and yet I couldn’t put it down. What would happen next? I could not guess. The ending is painful and brilliant and beautiful. The parallel stories are so clear at the end, but I never saw the ending coming. And the story isn’t over. More will happen to Marina. And yet the story is over. How she will live her life after the final page is up to her and the reader’s imagination. I don’t like this normally, but it works perfectly here.

I love this book and have already started re-reading it. If you haven’t read it, you need to. As for me continuing to write, I will.  It is probably just a mood thing. My writing hasn’t been going well, so I can’t help but compare Patchett’s wonderful novel to to the garbage I’ve been penning recently.

Patience and practice, Elizabeth! Patience and practice.

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