This novel is the literary embodiment of the kid who sat in the front row of your lecture course and had a long-winded comment to add to every. single. statement. made by your instructor. Not only do we go on a botanical exploration in the late 1700s- we go with CAPTAIN COOK! Not only do we supply pharmaceuticals to explorers- we sell to LEWIS AND CLARKE THEMSELVES! Not only did we happen upon the theory of evolution, but we BEAT DARWIN TO IT! These aren’t even the most egregious examples- all 512 pages of this self-important doorstop are chock-full of historical figures, grand moments in history, and constant reminders that our protagonist is agonizingly brilliant. Brilliant and misunderstood! Oh no, whatever will this unconventional woman do?! How do we know that she’s brilliant? Why, with list upon lists of her abilities and accomplishments, but without moments of her actually participating in said fields of discipline.
She’ll rip off Ahab’s Wife, mostly- right down to the whaling ships- but adds in a whole fun adventure involving the “child-like wonder” of the Tahitian people. Yikes.
This novel also holds one of the worst descriptors of a penis that has ever been sent into the universe-we are treated with “He had genitalia- perfectly adequate, and even impressive, genitalia. She allowed herself to observe with care this lovely appendage of his-this pale, waving sea creature, which floated between his legs in its thatch of wet and private fur.”
I finished this novel- out of spite and sheer grim determination- while on vacation. I wanted to cast it into the sea, but instead I gave up valuable space in my carry-on in order to bring it home and share it’s aggressive mediocrity with everyone that I come across. It was too hateful to leave behind.