Saturday, December 03, 2016
Posted by JaneGS
I'm really torn between 4 and 5 stars for Lab Girl, a memoir by scientist Hope Jahren. On the one hand, I loved the plant science, the discussion of life as a university scientist and professor, and the insights into living with mental illness. On the other hand, I did find Jahren a bit wearying. In a way, she is like Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. Their lives and issues make for good memoirs but neither is someone I warm to, have much in common with, or want to spend a lot of time with. That's not to say I don't derive insight and inspiration from their stories, but...they are a bit wearying.
I listened to audio versions of both Lab Girl and Wild, which I think was good. I only experienced the books driving around, doing errands, rather than long reading sessions by the fire. Neither of these memoirs lend themselves to long reading sessions by the fire.
In addition to learning about trees, grasses, mushrooms, radishes, botany, earth science, and what the dinosaurs ate, I loved the sections of the book where Jahren connected a part of her story with a particular piece of literature. By far my favorite was the section, fairly early, where she is a student and working in a hospital pharmacy and she links it beautifully to David Copperfield. This thread is not a single strand but an intricately developed literary construct that plays in several ways. For that section alone, I bumped it from 4 to 5 stars on GoodReads. Anyone who can make sense of their life and situation by relating them to David Copperfield is worth reading and listening to.