Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book: Pharmakon -- May 21, 2009

This book, by Dirk Wittenborn, came from my book club because I didn't tell them not to send it soon enough. I considered sending it back, but then decided to give it a try. I don't read enough recent literature.

The central character, Doctor William Friedrich, is a psychologist who developed a scale for judging happiness. After his World War Two service in the AAF, the scale helped to get him a position at Yale, where he learned about a natural drug used by shamans in the south seas to help people who were depressed. Friedrich and the colleague who told him about the drug try to develop it. Things don't work out well.

I could say the same about the book. Wittenborn is a good writer, who can turn a phrase. The first sentence is a classic. The first section of the book is gripping. After that, entropy sets in and the book stops dead at the end in a way that many people will find unsatisfying. The book follows Friedrich's children, but they are not as interesting as the doctor and his wife.

The point of view shifted several times from first person to third person. I can see why the author did it, but it was confusing at times.

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