Title: Ship Fever
Author: Andrea Barrett
The elegant short fictions gathered here, often set against the backdrop of the nineteenths century, take their impulse from the world of science. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they move between pas 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 serves at a quarantine station for immigrants driven from Ireland by the Great Famine- and finds himself at the center of one of history’s most tragic epidemics. In “The English Pupil,” Linnaeus, ancient and vague, watches bewildered as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. In “The Behavior of the Hawkweeds,” Gregor Mendel’s disappointed spirit haunts a mediocre contemporary geneticist. And in “The Littoral Zone,” two marine biologists look back at their life-altering affair – and wonder whether it was all worth it.
In tradition of Alice Munro, William Trevor, and the early writing of Mark Helprin, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move beyond interior and exterior journeys, they illuminate the secret passions of those driven by devotion to, and an intimate acquaintance with, the natural world.
Short Stories include;
The Behavior of the Hawkweeds
The Littoral Zone
Birds with no Feet
The Marburg Sisters
Ship Fever (novella)
My Rating: 8.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: There was something about Barrett’s writing style that drew me into the stories, which prevented me from putting the book down. I only stopped, because I was two tired to finish reading it. Barrett has a beautiful style of writing, that will pull the reader in, and it won’t release you until you stop. She has a great ability to etch the emotions of the characters into the pages of the books, to illustrate what they felt and went through at the time, without actually saying it. This is especially seen in “Ship Fever” and “The English Pupil”, which were my two favourite stories from the collection. Emotion from these two stories just pours out of the pages, and the characters seem to stay with you after you leave them. Barrett also has a great ability to describe the setting, making the reader feel as if they are an invisible body, watching the story play out, but she does with ease and very short descriptions, I’m not sure how to explain it. Her writing just has this effect on the reader and it pulls them into the stories, without the reader even realizing it.
One of the things I disliked was that there were one or two stories I didn’t really care much for particularly, “The Littoral Zone.” The writing was the same, but the plot of the story itself, just didn’t interest me or reach me in anyway.
Overall, this was a fantastic read, drawing the reader in to the stories, and the summary in the book can’t explain it better “these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space.” Which of course is what I think draws the reading in so well, the author’s ability to create such realism and emption in the stories.
Would I recommend it to read:Oh yes, they may not be the most exciting books in the literary world, but this is one of those books any book lover should experience, because of the wonderful style of writing and experience it gives you, I guess you could say, the way the author is able to pull you into the books, is what makes it so well done
What to read next: The summary vaguely compares her to Alice Munro, and I have read a couple of her books, they do have the same level, in the way the express and grab you into other’s lives, so if you like short stories, she may be a good place to start. Also other novels, short stories or novella’s by Andrea Barrett would be a good idea as well.