Sunday, September 5, 2010

Too many animals

Ruth Padel may be a good zoologist and poet but her debut novel fails to hold your attention.

“She dabbed out her tongue… she was young and this was her first time. Evolution had not let her down…” Such is the prose Literary Review's Bad Sex prize is made of. There's plenty more, “bronze shadows in each honey-flame iris, the pearl-pale ring encircling each pupil…high as a man's thigh.” Except, this is just a description of a female king cobra's features and feelings.

Being Charles Darwin's family and a zoologist is one thing but assuming such a relation makes for a natural philosopher is a fallacy. Ruth Padel, Darwin's great-great-grand-daughter, declares herself a scientist and poet early on in her first novel Where the Serpent Lives. Having authored an anthology of poetry, Darwin: A Life in Poems, and being a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London the titles sit aptly. But applying science to the general human condition and fusing the two to fashion a convincing story requires a superior kind of maturity; of the sort Darwin, Albert Einstein or close home A.K. Ramanujan showed. Padel, lamentably, cannot hope to be a patch on such writing and insights.

Full review here Hindu

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