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Archangel: Fiction Paperback – July 7, 2014
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From Publishers Weekly
Barrett, whose novel Ship Fever won the 1996 National Book Award, dwells on the intersections between science (her interests include genetics, astronomy, and zoology) and ethics (love, purpose, solace). Her training in biology and her meticulous research allow Barrett to speak of facts with authority, but in this powerful collection of five long stories, the facts come through the eyes of lost, lonely, elusive investigators. In The Ether of Space, set in 1920, astronomer Phoebe Wells struggles with the implications of Einstein's theories; in The Island, set in 1873, young biologist Henrietta Atkins, initially worshipful of a creationist professor, succumbs to Darwinism. As is typical of Barrett's work, characters overlap. A 12-year-old boy catching his first sight of aeroplanes in The Investigators, set in 1908, is encountered again as a WWI soldier in the excellent title story, where he sees planes bombing his camp. At times, Barrett's exercises in defamiliarization falter, leaving us with a barrage of historic-scientific details; at others, her ruminative observers remain too elusive to be believed, with loneliness and enigma crossing into tropes. But these few missteps don't counter the overall power of the book; there is indeed a sense of expansion as one travels onward in Barrett's world, and pleasure in watching it fill out. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman. (Aug.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* National Book Award winner Barrett (The Air We Breathe, 2007) returns to the short story in her first collection since Servants of the Map (2002), drawing on her fascination with science, the wellspring for her discerning, imaginative, and tender fiction. In the dazzling opening story, young Constantine is liberated from his troubled Detroit home to spend the summer of 1908 helping his dynamic uncle with his experimental farm in a New York State village of exuberant “investigators” busy building and flying an airplane that wins a Scientific American trophy. In the book’s staggering finale, Constantine reappears as a wounded soldier in 1919 stationed in the remote Russian town of Archangel. In between, Barrett incisively portrays women intent on breaking into the male-dominated scientific realm, including intrepid teacher Henrietta Atkins, two science writers, and one of the first X-ray technicians. Reveling in technical innovations and tectonic shifts in ideas and perceptions, Barrett dramatizes the impassioned conflicts engendered by the discoveries of Mendel, Darwin, and Einstein along with the toxic politics of science while celebrating the sharing of knowledge. Most movingly, she considers the subtle ways that, as one character expresses it, “science was influenced by feeling.” Barrett’s consummate historical stories of family, ambition, science, and war are intellectually stimulating, lushly emotional, and altogether pleasurable. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.