Intuition by Allegra Goodman

#45 in my book challenge for the year, and #21 in my summer book challenge, Intuition by Allegra Goodman, was recommended with reservations by a member of my writing group. Interestingly, she didn’t tell me what her reservations were, so I read with extra awareness to how it was written. I found it a good book, worth reading, but with some significant problems as well. I was also reminded that in nearly every book I read, there is some very small thing that I quibble over, even if I love the book, so I’ll leave that for the end.

What works: Intuition is the story of group of postdocs, once of whose work begins to show results. The positive results are a mixed blessing, though, as tensions begin to arise among the various strong personalities. Goodman has written a huge cast of characters, most of whom are complexly drawn, and all of whom interact in interesting and believable ways. Their various experiences and points of view give the reader multiple views into the plot, as in Rashomon. The plot clips along at a strong pace, as events seem to take on a life of their own. At the end, everyone is both better and worse off, and two of the main female characters are perhaps the only ones to gain significant self insight.

What didn’t work: The cast was so big that there was no way to adequately characterize all the characters, and some of them appeared conveniently, then disappeared. The omniscient point of view was sometimes dizzying and distracting, as the narrative would swoop among several characters within a chapter. Additionally, there was a great deal of narration of what each of the characters was feeling or thinking. Sometimes this felt like good characterization, other times it felt like “telling”. The characters and the story might better have been served with more narrative and less character description.

The tiny thing that annoyed me a lot: The font of the pages numbers was different from that of the text, and it was hard to read–a poor design choice.

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