Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Book Review: Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love by Hope Jahren

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...





Title: Lab Girl
Author: Hope Jahren
Publication Date: April 21st 2016 by Fleet

Synopsis: "A frank, illuminating and incandescent memoir by a trailblazing scientist; a moving portrait of a longtime collaboration in work and life; and a book that casts a whole new light on the natural world.

Lab Girl is a book about work and about love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about the discoveries she has made in her lab, as well as her struggle to get there; about her childhood playing in her father's laboratory; about how lab work became a sanctuary for both her heart and her hands; about Bill, the brilliant, wounded man who became her loyal colleague and best friend; about their field trips - sometimes authorised, sometimes very much not - that took them from the Midwest across the USA, to Norway and to Ireland, from the pale skies of North Pole to tropical Hawaii; and about her constant striving to do and be her best, and her unswerving dedication to her life's work.

Visceral, intimate, gloriously candid and sometimes extremely funny, Jahren's descriptions of her work, her intense relationship with the plants, seeds and soil she studies, and her insights on nature enliven every page of this thrilling book. In Lab Girl, we see anew the complicated power of the natural world, and the power that can come from facing with bravery and conviction the challenge of discovering who you are."

My thoughts: The layout of this book was what really drew me in to start with - Jahren alternates chapters of her own story mixed with writing about different trees and plants and how they grow, how they survive. These link in really well to her life and her own research, but also serve to break up the story a little so that you get to learn a few things as well as read about Jahren's life.

I loved this, but I have to say that occasionally I felt a little be perplexed by the science - I studied chemistry in high school, but remember very little, and I have little to no experience with the study of biology of any kind. I honestly think, though, that this is more reflective of my own ability to concentrate lately rather than any fault of Jahren's writing.

Speaking of her writing, it occasionally came across as a little distant, as if she were removing herself from the situation slightly and writing a report on the events rather than writing about her own life. I can understand why she did it this way, but it wasn't until later in the book that I found myself really getting into the tone of the book.

Otherwise, I found this book a wonderful read. I felt like I was engaging with scientific study as well as reading about someone's life, and that was a wonderful experience. The relationships that Jahren describes within this book - particularly between herself and Bill - were interesting to read about, and you really got a sense of how Jahren was beginning to understand more about love and companionship over time.


I received a review copy of this book from Hachette. Thank you!

A favourite line from the book: "Green stem gracefully morphs into brown root at the soil's surface, and somewhere inside that interface important decisions are made. If both ends of the plant succeed, there is then the question of what to do with that day's winnings. The making of sugars, starches, oils, and proteins is all possible, but which one of these should be constructed?"

You would like this book if: you like memoirs with a science edge; you enjoy reading about trees and plants (which I do!).

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something leafy. I think a nice green tea would go really well! Perhaps just some basic sencha to savour.

Rating:  8/10

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