Ship Fever

Ship Fever

4.5 6
by Andrea Barrett
     
 

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1996 National Book Award Winner for Fiction. The elegant short fictions gatheredhereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and… See more details below

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Overview

1996 National Book Award Winner for Fiction. The elegant short fictions gatheredhereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In "Ship Fever," the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history's most tragic epidemics. In "The English Pupil," Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in "The Littoral Zone," two marine biologists wonder whether their life-altering affair finally was worth it. In the tradition of Alice Munro and William Trevor, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move between interior and exterior journeys, "science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material" (Boston Globe).

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
[Andrea Barrett's] work stands out for its sheer intelligence, its painstaking attempt to discern and describe the world's configuration. The overall effect is quietly dazzling.— Thomas Mallon
Thomas Mallon - New York Times Book Review
“[Andrea Barrett's] work stands out for its sheer intelligence, its painstaking attempt to discern and describe the world's configuration. The overall effect is quietly dazzling.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The quantifiable truths of science intersect with the less easily measured precincts of the heart in these eight seductively stylish tales. In the graphic title novella, a self-doubting, idealistic Canadian doctor's faith in science is sorely tested in 1847 when he takes a hospital post at a quarantine station flooded with diseased, dying Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. The story, which deftly exposes English and Canadian prejudice against the Irish, turns on the doctor's emotions, oscillating between a quarantined Irish woman and a wealthy Canadian lady, his onetime childhood playmate. In ``The English Pupil,'' Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who brought order to the natural world with his system of nomenclature, battles the disorder of his own aging mind as he suffers from paralysis and memory loss at age 70. In ``The Behavior of the Hawkweeds,'' a precious letter drafted by Austrian monk Gregor Mendel, who discovered the laws of heredity, reverberates throughout the narrator's marriage to her husband, an upstate New York geneticist. Barrett (The Forms of Water) uses science as a prism to illuminate, in often unsettling ways, the effects of ambition, intuition and chance on private and professional lives. (Jan.)
Donna Seaman
Barrett, author of "The Middle Kingdom" (1991), has used science as a conduit to understanding the human psyche in this gorgeously imagined story collection. She mixes historical figures, such as Gregor Mendel and Carolus Linnaeus, with those of her own invention in tales about the quest for insights into the workings of the natural world, including the human heart. The title piece, a gripping novella, takes place during Ireland's Great Famine, when tens of thousands made the cruel transatlantic journey to Canada, only to suffer the horrors of a raging typhus epidemic. A young, disenchanted Canadian doctor agrees to work at a quarantine station in the hope of impressing the woman he loves, but he is in for a rude shock. The understaffed station is in a state of absolute crisis, and emaciated immigrants are dying by the hundreds. In a quieter, more contemporary vein, Barrett combines science and love in "The Littoral Zone," a story about two marine biologists who fall in love, much to the dismay of their respective families. Barrett's stories are precise and concentrated, containing a truly remarkable wealth of psychology and social commentary.
Thomas Mallon
"Her work stands out for its sheer intelligence....The overall effect is quietly dazzling." -- The New York Times Book Review
Diane Cole
"An extraordinary short story collection....Barrett blends a sure grasp of the history and method of science into each of her evocative tales." -- Chicago Tribune
Boston Globe
“Beautiful stories about the wonder and work of science…In Barrett’s hands, science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange, and thrilling fictional material.”
The New Yorker
“The title novella is devastating: as with every story here, you enter right into it, and cannot entirely leave it behind.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393038538
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Howard Norman
"In these wonderfully original stories, the great explorers of mind and geography seem to enter the room, and history feels more immediate than the present....Andrea Barrett does not flinch from large subjects, with her uncanny investigations into human curiousity, her senual and soul-enhancing, and always underlist her splendid intelligence."

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