Book Talk: Book research made Ann Patchett faint

Thu Sep 8, 2011 6:11am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Prize-winning U.S. author Ann Patchett has always taken research for her novels seriously -- but never more so than with her latest, "State of Wonder."

Set deep in the Amazon, the book centers on a doctor who goes in search of a former mentor engaged in research on a tribe where the women are fertile until they die -- but also touches on topics such as malaria, corporate greed and facing up to questions from the past.

Seeking to educate herself about the details of a caesarean section by watching an actual operation, Patchett -- who won the Orange Prize for a previous book, "Bel Canto" -- ended up mortified when she fainted and was nearly admitted to hospital herself.

In Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Patchett spoke about research and writing.

Q: What inspired your latest book?

A: "I wanted to write a book about a teacher/student relationship in which the teacher and the student meet again as adults as equals. This is not the story of a child student but of a medical student who was so profoundly influenced by her relationship with this teacher and the teacher essentially doesn't remember her.

"I think that's a very common thing. Teachers can't remember all of their students, especially the good ones. Teachers tend to remember their horrible students who really made their life hell. The ones that are easy-going and turn their homework in on time, you don't remember those people."

Q: You take your readers to the Amazon in this book, why?   Continued...