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3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  1,248 Ratings  ·  285 Reviews
Als Amerika in 1916 betrokken raakt bij de Eerste Wereldoorlog, heeft dat gevolgen voor een jonge tuberculeuze migrant uit Duitsland.
Paperback, 284 pages
Published 2008 by Anthos (first published January 1st 2007)
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This is one of very few books I've read that effectively utilizes the first-person plural for narration. Because of the characters and setting -- patients in a tuberculosis ward, drawn together only for the purpose of getting well and confined all day to laying around and gossiping about each other -- the "we" works well as a narrative voice, emphasizing that shared space and lack of privacy. Through the narrators, characters come to light and are fleshed out beautifully -- some who appear sympa ...more
Aug 01, 2009 Robyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains in 1916 as the U.S. prepares to enter WWI, this story follows the lives of patients and care providers at a tuberculosis sanitarium for the indigent. Near the beginning of the novel, a wealthy business man, also staying in the mountains to recover from TB – but at one of the private cure cottages only afforded to the privileged, decides to begin a Wednesday lecture series at the sanitarium, whereby every Wednesday evening a different person (startin ...more
Jan 07, 2012 PlushyPirate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this on a recommendation from a professor because I write similar things, so part of my enjoyment of this book is from a purely nerdy writerly point of view. Fair warning!

The point of view of the book is odd -- it's mostly "we" with a lot of points where it becomes a specific person, often one that the "we" should know nothing about. It's a little disconcerting at first, but if you just roll with it, it works, and there's a good explanation for why, but you have to wait until the last pa
Kristi Lamont
Jan 12, 2017 Kristi Lamont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently shared with my husband that one of my goals for the calendar year was to attempt to rediscover the joy I felt as a younger reader when I would simply wander the stacks of my library to find a book to try and then really enjoyed it, vs seeking out a specific book because I had read or been told about it. This book does not literally (ha) fit that bill, but it came close; a family member simply handed it to me and said, "You need to read this, you will like it." So I did, without being ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Andryl
Shelves: library-book, fiction
A most excellent book; it even ties together some of the frustrating short stories in Ship Fever and manages to connect them to Voyage of the Narwhal, without intruding on the fascinating story set forth in its own pages.
Situated in a small town in New York state during the 1910's, the book focuses on the lives of patients in a tuberculosis sanatorium and their caretakers. Weaving romance with intellectual curiosity, Andrea Barrett draws the reader into the world she's created. Less focused on t
April H.
Feb 16, 2017 April H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the days immediately before and then immediately after the United States' entrance into WWI, I couldn't help but see the parallels to our time. Suspicion of "the foreigners" - isolationism, nationalism; all of these are themes of this book, which made me ask myself if my attitudes and prejudices are really that different from those who lived a century ago. Woven throughout, I loved the explanations of early-20th-century scientific discoveries and medical treatments and methods.
Apr 27, 2008 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is Barrett’s fourth book since she hit her stride as a writer, her eighth over all. Her two best works are the short story collections, Ship Fever and Servants of the Map. Plus there is the very good novel, The Voyage of the Narwhal. All three have certain characters that overlap, scientists, immigrants, wanderers. Descendents of a couple of these characters make it into this novel set in an upstate New York tuberculosis sanatorium and its surrounding village, where wealthier tubercular pat ...more
Steve Smits
Apr 07, 2013 Steve Smits rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am familiar with the villages of the Adirondacks where this novel is set. In Tupper Lake, there is an institution now called Sunmount Developmental Center that was the site in the late 19th & early 20th centuries of a tuberculosis sanitarium. I have visited Sunmount many times it my professional capacity (it now houses persons with developmental disabilities). Perhaps this is the state institution that Barrett uses as the Tamarack sanitarium. Nearby Saranac Lake is well-known for its histo ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Angele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barrett brings her skill in mixing science with human history to this novel set in a tuberculosis sanitarium in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 1916. Human progress and human folly march side-by-side, like the WWI soldiers doomed by mustard gas and machine-gun fire. At Tamarack State, tubercular patients can see detailed X-rays of their damaged lungs--but in the absence of antibiotics, must rely for a "cure" on isolation, rest, fresh air, bland food, and cheerful thoughts. Cheerful thoughts a ...more
Sean Cronin
This book is set in a tuberculous sanitarium in 1916. It deals with the relationships between the patients and nurses and doctors.
It is a sad book - face it, the patients aren't getting out alive. And Barrett's prose reflects this sadness: careful, exact, mild. She deserves a lot of credit for pulling this off for 200 pages.
This story would have benefited from a bit more affect. To me, it was very flat. A Nurse and a patient are falling in love, but by golly Barret isn't going to up the pace or
Tranna Foley
May 18, 2009 Tranna Foley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hickman
From Follett -- Conflict and resentments break out in a small Adirondack town in the fall of 1916 when Miles Fairchild, a wealthy resident living in a "cure cottage" while being treated for tuberculosis, decides to start a discussion group with patients--mostly poor European immigrants--confined in the state-run sanitorium.

This book is one of the finalists for Columbia's One Read. It does cover the historical period in an interesting way (through the stories of the patients and workers at the sa
Oct 16, 2007 jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Set at a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Adirondack mountains at the brink of WWI. I really liked this setting and time period: there's great excitement over advancements in scientific technology, like x-rays and warfare, and the recently immigrated Jewish patients have interesting stories. But ultimately, I just found this book sort of dull. I didn't believe in many of the characters and got turned off by an overdone connection between patriotic zealotry then and now. I've never read anything el ...more
May 15, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift, together with The Magic Mountain. I know that some rave about The Magic Mountain, but I don't think I have ever read anything more boring. I can take boring, but not with a character like that. This book - The Air We Breathe - might not be so boring, but I have just discovered, at my advanced age, that a male protagonist immediately puts me off a book. This realization should serve to make future visits to the library much more productive.
Ann Koles
Set in a tubercular sanitarian in upstate N.Y. in 1916. Touches on care of patients, paranoia of WWI, medicine of the time, treatment of immigrants.
Jul 10, 2010 Melanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
Four stars until the family tree on the last two pages tied up everything (and I do mean everything, and for two generations after the one that this book is concerned with, to boot) just a little (okay, a lot) too neatly.
Dec 19, 2007 Lewis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often love historical fiction and have a minor interest in diseases of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It could have been great. A tuberculosis sanitarium for all started out with good character development and quickly devolved into a pat ending...
May 12, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that sticks to your ribs. I find myself thinking back to it over and over. This is the first Barret I've read but definitely one I'll read more from.
Jeff P. Jones
Read this book b/c of Barrett's Best American Essay "The Sea of Information," which is an amazingly helpful essay about doing and incorporating research into a novel.
Ultimately, disappointed in this novel, though Barrett's other work I find is great. I never engaged fully with the characters until more than halfway through the book. Kept wondering when the story would kick in. It's very muted and slow, and she spends so much time squeezing in all that unnecessary scientific detail. I was braced
May 30, 2017 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, ww-i
Another great novel by Andrea Barrett. I seem to be magnetically drawn to books set in either WWI or WWII; this one is set in a tuberculosis sanitorium in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains. The patients in the sanitorium are considered the "charity patients" - mostly immigrants who can't afford the private cottages. The U.S. has not yet been engaged in WWI but war propaganda is on the rise. I enjoyed the cast of characters and learning about their backgrounds, especially Leo, a young man ...more
Mar 01, 2014 Darin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sly observation of the penchant for gossip amongst people forced to spend time together, Andrea Barrett's The Air We Breathe manages to distill the often overlooked time prior to US involvement in World War I and offer it up as a reflection of current American society.

Leo Marburg is a poor immigrant struggling to make a living in New York City when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis and eventually makes his way to Tamarack Lake, a TB cure community in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. There
Nov 30, 2010 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Air We Breathe” provides an insight into tuberculosis sanatoriums but also is a mix of science, World War I paranoia and romantic entanglements that takes forever to gather momentum.

Set primarily in a 100-plus-patient sanatorium in the mountains of upstate New York, before and during America’s involvement in the war, the world of “The Air We Breathe” is altered by the weekly gatherings begun by Miles, a 37-year-old tuberculosis sufferer in an upscale cottage. Driven weekly to the Tamarack S
Richard Hunt
Mar 22, 2011 Richard Hunt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book club read for me, Barrett very confidently takes the reader back to the days when tuberculosis ravaged cities' populations, eventually suspending the lives of those who contracted the disease while also paralyzing those not infected by the fear of this invisible menace.

So much was going on in American society at the time -- industry was booming, women were finally being recognized in terms of equal rights and accomplishments, and science emerged as much more than an academic field, but
Jun 01, 2016 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Air We Breathe, the story steadily rolls out with crests and troughs; the troughs setting up the next swell or scenario and building up, easing down, but always intriguing. The unidentified narrator leads us through the events in an Adirondacks' tuberculosis sanatorium in 1916-1917. Indigent patients from large cities are shipped to quiet Tamarack Lake to cure in the fresh air, their bodies strengthened with healthy food, strictly enforced rest / quiet, and medical care. Leo Marburg, a fo ...more
May 24, 2012 Bridget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
This story, which takes place as World War I is underway at a sanitorium in the Adirondacks, was one I wanted to read after reading a blurb about it on a "Book of the Day" calendar a co-worker gave me for Christmas. The time period is one of my favorites, and I was intrigued that the action all occurred at the sanitorium. The story focuses from the beginning on one of the patients, Leo Marburg, who we meet as he is first arriving after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. The narrator remains some ...more
Maria Headley
I love Andrea Barrett - her stories are the ones I often find lurking in back corners of my brain, with indeterminate heritage. As in, I often think that the historic narratives she's invented are in fact dreams I've had, or stories I've heard about my ancestors. Servants of the Map did this to me especially. I think I can attribute this to Barrett's grace. She writes about science in such a way that I think I understand it, and because it seems so organic to me, I think it came from somewhere o ...more
Feb 28, 2008 asra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Set in the Adirondacks of New York in 1916, where tuberculosis patients gather because the air is therapeutic. The wealthier, more established patients recuperate at private cottages, whereas a number of European immigrants are sequestered at a public sanatorium. Miles, a patient from the cottage, begins a discussion group at the sanatorium. Naomi, a fickle young woman whose mother owns the cottage where Miles stays, and whom he’s fallen for, escorts him to and from the sanatorium. The meetings ...more
Sep 05, 2016 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The strength of this novel is Barrett's ability to write beautifully and convincingly about yearning, whether it be for knowledge and meaningful work, or for travel and new experiences. When she writes about her characters' hopes and aspirations, she is at her best.

Although I enjoyed this book for most of the time I was reading it, I feel the plot, which was building in tension, was not resolved in a satisfactory manner -- it simply petered out. Barrett creates tension as she narrates events at
Feb 12, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Andrea Barrett was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, she moved to New York City to begin her new novel that would become The Air We Breathe. The day was September 10, 2001. Like many writers after 9/11, she was unable to put words to the page. It took her a year to begin writing this novel, but when she did what came out was poignant and close to everyone’s heart, even though it is set in 1916 at the onset of World War I.

The story takes place in the Adirondacks at a sanitarium for tu
Apr 29, 2014 Jacque rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and amazing interweaving of various sciences, science history and social history into the characters lives and as plot points: x-ray development, paleontology, chemical weapons, medicine, TB sanitoreums, Life in small town upstate New York adirondacks, public and community action and reaction to possible supporters of nations war enemies, etc. I really like how rich in content this novel is.

Descriptions of how some of the characters thought and made decisions.

Many scenes beaut
Jul 31, 2009 Marvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Other Andrea Barrett fans say that this is not her best work, but I liked this more intimate book better than the two of hers I read that were set on a grander scale, The Voyage of the Narwhal & The Middle Kingdom. This one's set in a state sanatorium in upstate New York. As the working-class inmates are recovering from TB, an industrialist recovering at a more upscale institution nearby forms some of them into a discussion group. They eventually take it over & remake it from his paterna ...more
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Andrea Barrett is the author of 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.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
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