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Ship Fever: Stories Paperback – November 17, 1996


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Ship Fever: Stories + Servants of the Map: Stories + The Voyage of the Narwhal: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393316009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316001
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1764, two Englishwomen set out to prove that swallows--contrary to the great Linnaeus's belief--do not hibernate underwater. But they must be patient and experiment in secret, such actions being inappropriate for the female of the species. In 1862, a hopeless naturalist heads off for yet another journey, though he can't seem to rid his conscience of the thousands of animals that have already died in his service. In 1971, a pregnant young woman, ill at ease with her socially superior husband and his stepchildren, hears of a Tierra del Fuegan taken hostage by the commander of the Beagle in 1835. This unwilling specimen was, we read, "captured, exiled, re-educated; then returned, abused by his family, finally re-accepted. Was he happy? Or was he saying that as a way to spite his captors? Darwin never knew."

Many of the characters who populate Andrea Barrett's National Book Award-winning collection, Ship Fever, feel similarly displaced in the world. They long to prove themselves in both science and love, but are often thwarted by gender, social position, or the prevailing order. In "The Behavior of the Hawkweeds," the wife of a genetics professor has learned that each narrative of discovery is matched by one, if not more, "in which science is not just unappreciated, but bent by loneliness and longing." Barrett's astonishing tales of ambition and isolation convey the meaning and feeling behind the patterns--scientific and emotional--but slip free of easy closure. The two women in "Rare Bird," like the swallows, depart England for more conducive climes, or so the brother of one believes. The reader is left to hope, and imagine. Much has been made of Andrea Barrett's interlacing of history, knowledge, and fact--and rightly so. But equal attention should be paid to the brilliant serenity and exactitude of her style. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Andrea Barrett was born in Boston, MA in 1954 and grew up on Cape Cod. She studied biology at Union College, in Schenectady, NY and started writing fiction in her twenties, after several brief stints in graduate school. She lived in Rochester, NY for many years and now lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, photographer Barry Goldstein. She's the author of six novels, most recently THE AIR WE BREATHE, and three collections of stories: SHIP FEVER, which received the 1996 National Book Award, SERVANTS OF THE MAP, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and, most recently, ARCHANGEL. Visit her official website at www.andrea-barrett.com.

Customer Reviews

Either way, you'll enjoy them more than you thought.
Susanne Koenig
Without a doubt, Andrea Barrett is one of our finest writers in the English language, blessed with much intelligence and graceful, poetic prose.
John Kwok
If you enjoy short stories, this is a wonderful collection.
BurghMama

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By df@discovernet.net on March 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most intelligently written collections I have read in a long time. At first thought, I was concerned that the weaving of fictional characters with historical figures from the world of science would result in a contrived work that was more interested in serving its format than it was at achieving its literary goal. My concerns were misplaced. The author has created a series of tales that explore and provide insight into some of the most basic human emotions. She is especially adept at creating events that transcend their natural progression and serve as metaphors for at times exhilarating, and at times disturbing aspects of the human condition. Although I can understand those who might feel that this is a book that is difficult to put down, I would suggest that it is better digested in small servings. Each tale requires some reflection on the reader's part in order to best enjoy this wonderful collection.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I first discovered Andrea Barrett when I read one of the short stories
in her collection SHIP FEVER, entitled "The Behaviour of the
Hawkweeds" in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES. ...
In her other tales
in this collection, Barret explores experiences and perspecives associated
with science and medicine in the 19th century. One tale "Sorache"
describes the terrible consequences of a treatment for altitude sickness on
a pregnant tourist. In "Birds With No Feet" a young naturalist
realizes his love of nature and his scientific exploits are on a deadly
collision.
My second favorite story (after Hawkweeds) is the eponymous
tale "Ship Fever." I could relate to this tale because my great-
grandmother Anna Mary immigrated from Genderalden Bavaria in the 1850s to
Chicago, where the members of her family were struck down by Cholera. Of her
family--father, mother, four brothers and herself--only Anna Mary and
one brother survived. In "Ship Fever" Barrett recounts the
terrible effects of Cholera on the immigrant ships....
These are wonderful
and moving stories. Barrett enlightens us about life in the 19th Century,
where science promised so much while simultaneously introducing a new world
of pain and terror.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
I was initially drawn to this book by its cover. Upon further examination, I found the various story names very intriguing and decided that this book was worth a try. I have not read anything as thought provoking and so well written in a very long time. Andrea Barrett has skillfully woven historical facts regarding famous scientists, such as Linnaeus, with modern day subjects and characters which brings the stories to life with a truly refreshing richness and sense of credibility. It is filled with lucid descriptions of both persons and places which adds to the joy of reading this compilation of stories. I highly recommend this book, I may not be Oprah, but I am an avid reader and this book is a true treasure. I cannot wait for the publication of her next work. If you have vowed to read more in this New Year, then pick up Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever. Everything else you read after Ship Fever will have a hard time surpassing its brilliance! The old adage of do not judge a book by its cover does not apply here...it is beautiful to behold with the eye and in the hand. It is a modern day masterpiece
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on August 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
This collection of short stories is amazing if not for the wonderful writing, for the subject matter and themes of the tales. All of the tales are set in the 1800s and involve what one reviewer aptly calls, "the great explorers of mind and geography." Barrett blends together real and fictional historical scientific characters in stories that examine the hearts and minds of the scientists in the last century. In These stories we inspect the genetic gardens and life of Gregor Mendel as experienced by the man who was a boy in those gardens, feel the frustrations of a young man from Philadelphia named Alec who spends his life in the jungles of the Amazon and the Pacific Islands collecting rare insects, birds, and other fauna, a couple of marine biologists who fall in love during a seminar and leave their respective long-established families to marry, and more. The last tale, the most powerful, is about a doctor who works on Grosse Island in Canada, the receiving point for boatloads of Irish immigrants fleeing famine in Ireland, and bringing horrible typhoid fever in sickening and deadly droves. There are thousands of books written about the hearts and emotions of the poets, philosophers, and politicians of the nineteenth century. To have a glimpse, even an imaginary one, of the scientists' as well, well, this collection is a rare treat.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By William J. Meggs on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Just as John Grisham's protagonists are lawyers, the protagonists of Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever are biologists and physicians, most often from the 19th century. Ship Fever is a collection of short stories plus a novella which shares the collection's title. The historical novella Ship Fever is of itself more than worth the price of this book, and the short stories that accompany it are gems to be treasured. Ship Fever is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the terrible tragedy of the Irish during the potato famine, and inadequacies of 19th century medicine in dealing with epidemics aboard crowded and unsanitary ships carry fleeing emmigrants. Many of the characters are historical figures, the research is meticulous, and like all stories in this collection, the reader is totally engaged. I highly recommend this book.
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