A week in advance of publication, the daily NYT reviews The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee (S&S/Scribner; S&S Audio), signaling high expectations for the book. The first consumer review, it follows stars from all four trade publications of Mukherjee’s second book after his Pulitzer Prize winner and best seller, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (S&S/Scribner, 2010).
Jennifer Senior, the NYT‘s daily nonfiction reviewer, is not as engaged as she would like to be and her review, while appreciative, expresses reservations.
She writes, “Many of the same qualities that made The Emperor of All Maladies so pleasurable are in full bloom in The Gene. The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized, packed with unfamiliar details about familiar people,” but she regrets that its deeper waters are not more clear or its narrative more personal and compelling.
As an example, on the topic of genetic reports she says: “Is there any value in knowing about the existence of a slumbering, potentially lethal genetic mutation in your cells if nothing can be done about it? (Personally, I wish he’d dedicated 50 pages to this question — it’d have offered a potentially moving story line and a form of emotional engagement I badly craved.)”
Libraries have bought it surprisingly cautiously, considering the strong trade reviews and the popularity of Mukherjee’s first book. Expect much more media attention.