Middle Kingdom

Overview

For Grace, the ardent yet puzzled heroine of Andrea Barrett’s third novel, this trip has been planned as a three-week stay: she’s to play dutiful wife to Walter, her prominent scientist husband, at the 1986 Beijing International Conference on the Effects of Acid Rain. Walter is twelve years older than Grace, and as sour as the rain he studies; he and Grace are at a particularly troubled point in their marriage. Their tightly circumscribed visit, however, becomes a journey infinitely less tidy and more complex as ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reissue)
$17.37
BN.com price
(Save 12%)$19.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (31) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $13.51   
  • Used (25) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

For Grace, the ardent yet puzzled heroine of Andrea Barrett’s third novel, this trip has been planned as a three-week stay: she’s to play dutiful wife to Walter, her prominent scientist husband, at the 1986 Beijing International Conference on the Effects of Acid Rain. Walter is twelve years older than Grace, and as sour as the rain he studies; he and Grace are at a particularly troubled point in their marriage. Their tightly circumscribed visit, however, becomes a journey infinitely less tidy and more complex as Grace falls forever out of love with her husband and very much in love with this country and its culture. In the chaos of the Beijing streets and in the home of her new friends Dr. Yu and her son Zaofan, Grace finds the web of life she’s been too lost to perceive. “Time you spend in the past and future is time you spend alone,” Dr. Yu tells her. “But between them there is a middle kingdom, both feet planted here.”

Barrett's two previous novels won her comparisons to Gail Godwin and Anne Tyler. The Middle Kingdom--now available in trade paper--is the story of a dutiful wife in an unhappy marriage who accompanies her husband on a business trip to China. But once there she falls out of love with her husband and into love with the country and its culture.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Amy Tan
“An exhilerating book... wonderful insights.... Ms. Barrett has captured a truly authentic Beijing.”
From the Publisher
“An exhilerating book... wonderful insights.... Ms. Barrett has captured a truly authentic Beijing.”

The Middle Kingdom is engaging. Andrea Barrett writes with felicity, intelligence, and humor.”

“With The Middle Kingdom, Andrea Barrett further consolidates her position as one of our most thoughtful chroniclers of contemporary life.... The Middle Kingdom is another impressive milestone in what promises to be a long and fruitful literary journey by an accomplished American author.”

The MIddle Kingdom proves again that Andrea Barrett is a writer of talent and promise.”

“An affecting novel about an American woman's self-discovery.... Barrett here re-creates not China itself but, more reasonably, her heroine's fascination with it, and she manages to infuse her characters, Grace especially, with a psychic energy and charm.”

Washington Post Book World
The Middle Kingdom is engaging. Andrea Barrett writes with felicity, intelligence, and humor.”
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
“With The Middle Kingdom, Andrea Barrett further consolidates her position as one of our most thoughtful chroniclers of contemporary life.... The Middle Kingdom is another impressive milestone in what promises to be a long and fruitful literary journey by an accomplished American author.”
San Francisco Chronicle
The MIddle Kingdom proves again that Andrea Barrett is a writer of talent and promise.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An overweight, complacent American woman on a 1986 visit to Beijing becomes fascinated with China and energetically embraces a new life in this affecting tale. (Mar.)
Cheri Fein
Andrea Barrett's third novel opens with Grace Hoffmeier, an American woman who has been living in Beijing, pedaling furiously through the city streets, her 2-year-old son strapped to her back, as the Tiananmen Square uprising whirls around her....Ms. Barrett is a solid writer, and "The Middle Kingdom" is a thoughtfully plotted book. Yet Grace is a troublesome character....Ms. Barrett never does manage to communicate just what it is about China that attracts her heroine -- or, for that matter, how the experience of living in that country changes her. -- New York Times
Post Bookworld Washington
The Middle Kingdom is engaging. Andrea Barret writes with felicity, intelligence, and humor.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671729615
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1992
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Barrett

Andrea Barrett is the author of Archangel, The Air We Breathe, Servants of the Map (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Voyage of the Narwhal, Ship Fever (winner of the National Book Award), and other books. She teaches at Williams College and lives in northwestern Massachusetts.

Biography

Andrea Barrett combines, as the critic Michiko Kakutani put it, "a naturalist's eye with a novelist's imagination." For the award-winning novelist and short-story writer, natural science, particularly nineteenth-century natural history, is a central preoccupation, and scientists and naturalists such as Linnaeus, Darwin, and Mendel frequently figure in her work. Barrett herself, however, gave up the study of science shortly after completing an undergraduate degree in biology. She entered a Ph.D. program in zoology but dropped out during the first semester.

Yet the way Barrett writes is, perhaps, her own brand of science; it involves long hours of research and the painstaking distillation of historical fact into historically accurate fiction. By her own admission, Barrett is an obsessive researcher: "Often for a story, I will do enough research to write a couple of novels, and for a novel I'll do enough research to have written an encyclopedia," she said in an interview in The Atlantic. But in the end, she adds, "fiction is about the characters, the image, the language, the poetry, the sound; it isn't about information. The information has to be distilled down to let us focus on what's really going on with the people."

Barrett didn't start writing fiction in earnest until her thirties, and she labored in comparative obscurity until 1996. Then, with four novels already behind her, she won the National Book Award for her first collection of short stories, Ship Fever. The collection explores the romantic and intellectual passions of a variety of historical and fictional characters, from an aging Linnaeus to a pair of contemporary marine biologists. In it, "science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material," said the Boston Globe.

The book's success launched Barrett into the literary limelight, where her reputation continued to grow. Her next book, The Voyage of the Narwhal, tells the story of a doomed scientific voyage to the Arctic in 1855. The writer Thomas Mallon called it "a brilliant reversal of Heart of Darkness: the danger is not that the characters will 'go native,' but that a lust for scientific knowledge and intellectual distinction will drive them to cruelties they would have been incapable of before."

Recently, Barrett's work has begun to feature recurring characters, some of them related to one another. In another collection of stories, Servants of the Map, several characters from Ship Fever reappear, as does the ship cook from The Voyage of the Narwhal. As Barrett follows the trajectory of their lives and relationships, it is increasingly apparent how attuned she is to the emotional lives, as well as the intellectual lives, of her characters. As Barry Unsworth wrote in The New York Times Book Review, Barrett captures "that blend of precision and appropriateness that has always characterized the best prose, an attentiveness to the truth of human feeling that is in itself a supremely civilized value."

Good To Know

When she isn't writing, Barrett plays African percussion with a group of musicians in Rochester, N.Y. The group includes her husband, the biologist Barry Goldstein.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)