Archangel: Fiction
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Archangel: Fiction

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  306 ratings  ·  83 reviews
"[Andrea Barrett's] work stands out for its sheer intelligence…The overall effect is quietly dazzling."—New York Times Book Review

Winner of the National Book Award for her collection of stories Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett has become one of our most admired and beloved writers. In this magnificent new book, she unfolds five pivotal moments in the lives of her characters and...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by W W Norton (first published January 1st 2013)
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Feb 27, 2014 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Teresa by: Rebecca Foster
I apologize to this book's last two stories, and to this review, for being distracted, and for using them as a distraction. Not an ideal situation, but there was nothing I could do about it except not read, and I just had to read after awhile. For a fuller review, please see Rebecca Foster's review, which is why I read this book.

The five stories take us back and forth through a span of almost 50 years, with several recurring characters or references to them and to certain events. The first story...more
Rebecca Foster
This elegantly written and deftly plotted short story collection reminded me of A.S. Byatt’s work – specifically Angels and Insects, but also Byatt’s frequent treatment of historical science. Along with women in science, some of Barrett’s linking themes are: evolution, both as a scientific proposal and in the more metaphorical sense of heredity and change over time (“Who am I? Who do I resemble, and who not? What makes me me, what makes you you; what do we inherit, and what not?” Sam muses in “T...more
I can't think of any author that can write about science and the people involved with science in such a compelling way as Andrea Barrett, and Archangel is a stunning example of her abilities. In this group of five interconnected stories, she writes about early aviation, Darwin's theory of evolution, Einstein's theory of relativity, genetics research, and early x-ray technology. This is historical fiction, and the scientific pioneers are either named or easily recognizable, but Barrett writes so...more
This collection of short stories is beautifully written. There are 5 stories in the book; all of them take place in the late 19th-early 20th century and revolve around scientific ideas of the time. I enjoyed four of the five stories, particularly "The Island" and the title story "Archangel." Barrett's landscape writing is incredible. All of her characters either struggle with the scientific ideas of the time or are completely in awe of new discoveries. Each story has a certain sense of melanchol...more
Annie Smidt
I adore Andrea Barrett. I think I've read all her other books, and have enjoyed them immensely. I like good historical fiction, and her history of science angle has always made her books really special. For some reason, though, this one, though I was so excited to find it, didn't grab me as much. I'm not sure if it's the book, or if I was in the wrong frame of mind.

I feel like I've read at least two other collections like this from her, of interconnected stories that take place in different era...more
ARCHANGEL. (2013). Andrea Barrett. ****.
This is a collection of short stories from this National Book Award winning author that address the significance of scientific discovery as it affects its investigators through various time periods. The author, trained in Biology, looks at a variety of eras in the march of discovery from 1873 up to 1939. Some of the settings were unknown to me. For example: One of the stories, “The Particles” (1939), involved a group of geneticists who were returning to Am...more
Barrett consistently writes books that are so smart, suffused with science and the joy and pain of scientific discovery, yet not forgoing relationship (and its commensurate joys and pains). Her characters are often earnest, if not completely self-aware or emotionally honest, seekers after truths, even when those truths are barely glimpsed or marginally understood. They are seeking something real and true, and often looking for that in science and discovery. Here, she again explores these themes...more
Erika Schoeps
Disclaimer: I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
I'm going to rate the stories in this book one by one, even though the stories obviously relate into one work of solid fiction. The first story is a young boy's discovery of science. The second, third, and fourth stories are all narratives of how different characters relate science and discovery into their lives. The last story is nostalgic and bitter, and ends with longing for home.

1st Story: The Investigators: 1 Star
A young boy...more
I liked this, for the most part, with the caveat that I'm a sucker for Enlightenment-era science stories. There were only five to the whole book, and some worked better than others—I felt her research peeking through fairly regularly, and some of the narrative seemed like more of an armature to hang the science on than anything propelling the story, except in a very abstract way. Still, her writing is lovely, and it all managed to hang together pretty well.
Wendy Feltham
Andrea Barrett is a wonder. She is the best writer I've ever found to combine historical fiction and science. I absolutely loved her collection of short stories, Ship Fever, and also really liked her novel The Air We Breathe. Archangel is different from both. It's kind of like a collection of short stories, with a simple link, either one character at a different decade in that person's life, or maybe just a similar theme. And an odd theme. I find myself completely absorbed by her characters. And...more
I have read and loved Andrea Barrett's fiction before. It's not light reading. She demands a lot from a reader, but reading this collection of somewhat linked stories, I remember the rewards of reading Barrett. It's a perfect book to start the summer since I have the mental energy to focus. Her stories often present protagonists who are scientists, inventors, or explorers. In this case World War I and II also figure in the unfolding of two stories. I think my favorite is "The Ether of Space." I'...more
What a pleasure to read such engaging writing about such compelling subjects peopled with such well-drawn characters, and in short stories no less, of which I'm generally not a fan. Barrett focuses on the turn of the 20th century and the hotly debated science topics of that time as her subject (genetics, physics, biology) as her characters grapple with their own sense of self-hood. Women scientists struggling to make ends meet while also struggling to be a mother; budding young scientists compet...more
Howard Cincotta
Andrea Barrett has carved out a remarkable literary domain in which she reigns virtually unchallenged: the fictional depiction of the explorations and experiments, troubled and triumphant, that constitute the advance of modern Western science from roughly the 18th century to the mid-20th. All executed with deep historical knowledge, enormous empathy for human frailty and aspirations, and deft literary skill.

Archangel, with its five stories connected by the slender threads of recurring characters...more
Peter Rock
Oh, man! So many writers, I think, turn to fantasy or exaggeration, cynicism or humor or stylistic showiness to try to express how deeply wonderful and unfamiliar this seeming familiar, boring world actually is--once again, Andrea Barrett just manages to go deeper into the world itself, and to tangle it up with all these people in a ways that show all these new connections between the intellectual and the emotional. And of course who isn't into those blind cave-dwelling fish? Masterful.
Champaign Public Library
I've been an Andrea Barrett fan for years and was excited to see a new book from her. This is a typical Barrett title with five longish stories focusing on people involved in the history of science. Protagonists are not the primary investigators, but are on the periphery of learning about big changes in scientific knowledge and trying to fit these shifts into their own lives. Barrett reminds us that scientific research does not exist in a vacuum from real women and men's beliefs and relationship...more
Interesting collection of stories that bring together scientific fact and fiction from a writer of exceptional prose. I think we need a new category -- "scientific fiction" - although when you Google scientific fiction, you get science fiction, so I guess that's not a good idea.
Diane S.
3.5 Late 1800's and near the turn of the new century and scientific investigation and many inventions are at the forefront of this novel of short stories.

Loved the first story and twelve yr. old Constatine Boyd, who leaves his home to spend summers with his uncles. In 1908 the uncle he is sent to is in a village that has many investigators and inventors, experiments, first efforts at flight and many other things. What makes this story for me is Constatine's enthusiasm, he looks at everything wi...more
This book was intriguing, because each time I finished one of the five sections, (they're not really chapters, yet they're not disconnected enough to be stand alone short stories) I wanted to know more about the characters in each one. Some reappear, and their stories expand and deepen, science is a theme throughout, maybe a little too much for me (science was never my favorite subject) but the characters are fascinating and keep you reading on. The last section is my favorite, though I am not s...more
Fans of Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures or A.S. Byatt’s “Morpho Eugenia” are likely to appreciate Andrea Barrett’s Archangel, a collection of short stories that address the psychological transformations of men and women invested in the developing sciences from 1908 to 1939.

Barrett’s characters wage private battles as they grope their way through conflicting ideas and alliances. Oliver Lodge’s etheric theory is challenged by Einstein’s relativity; Louis Agassiz’s polygenism steadily loses...more
Alice Of Wonderland
I won a copy from Goodreads First Reads.

The Investigators

Twelve year old Constantine Boyd travel to his "uncle's" farm. He discovers and witness the inventions and creativity. He spends most of his summer trying to find the cave-dwelling eyeless fish and doing chores on the farm. The lesson at the end of the short story is meaningful and insightful.

Rating: Four out of Five

The Ether of Space

Okay... Someone hand me a dictionary. What is this I'm reading? The Ether of Space is mostly confusing and
Although uneven, with the first two stories appearing somewhat bland and over-wrought, respectively, the balance of this collection more than compensates for its weak beginning. I found engaging the author's treatment of scientific discovery, particularly the weighing of discovery vs. belief, ego vs. evidence, and truth vs. politics. The author cleverly uses isolation as a tool to allow her characters to view the scientific process both from within and from without, giving perspective not only t...more
There are lots of writers of science fiction, but there are precious few writers of fiction about science. When you consider the vast influence on our daily lives of science and technology, this seems remarkable.

Then, almost out of nowhere, Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever exploded on the scene, followed by three more remarkable works. In her books scientists are real human beings who have petty quarrels and personality conflicts like everyone else, which is probably a revelation to the average reade...more
Disclosure: I received this through the Goodreads Giveaway, and definitely feel obliged to write up something.
More potential prejudice: I remember liking the author’s Ship Fever, perhaps because of the Historical/Scientific/Medical aspects. I liked it enough to acquire Narwhal (but can’t remember much about that one--I suspect I didn’t finish it), as well as enter this giveaway.
Even more: the back cover said these stories were “luminescent” and “radiant.” Hmm, didn’t note any visible light emis...more
"Archangel," a new collection of novellas that I've found frustrating, made me turn about face when I reached the title story at the end: I finished the last word and promptly read it again. One of the characters introduced in an earlier story as an American boy named Constantine, now shows up in Russian fighting in WWI. He is understandably outraged at the insanity of war, having literally dragged the corpse of his close friend into headquarters to show that the friend did not commit suicide, a...more
I really enjoyed reading this collection of five interlinked stories. They are linked in two ways: first, each has something to do with scientific discovery, and second, some of the characters overlap from story to story. However, since Barrett has not presented the stories in chronological order, the relationships between characters can be surprising. The grizzled old scientist in one story just might turn out be the bouncing baby boy in the next!

Barrett has a very light touch and manages to de...more
Archangel is yet another book by an author I'd not read before. Which makes me wonder just what it is I've been reading, but anyhow. It's an interesting book with five different stories with loosely interconnected characters all joined by an avid curiosity towards science, and invention. The stories are set from around 1870s through 1939, when scientific theories were floating around like so many tadpoles in a frog pond.

The bookending stories caught me. Each are of a young man by name Constanti...more
This lovely collection of loosely threaded stories spans the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a pivotal time for the fields of science and natural history. Its characters are thinkers and seekers of truth and knowledge; scientists and inventors all so focused on the various truths they are seeking that they don't always see the plainer truths around them. These characters desperately seek recognition and understanding, and yet aren't always able to provide that, in turn, to others....more
Amy Roberts
Wow!! This book was fantastic, one of those you end up sitting somewhere til very late because you can't put it down. The style was perfect for me, a series of vignettes that have connections to each other and sometimes feature the same character years later. A great look at people during the 1870's - 1940's who were witnessing society turning a new corner in the world of science, theories that were once pooh-poohed are becoming the norm. But many of the characters in this story are still constr...more
Sue Davis
I am so glad I came across Andrea Barrett's work here on Goodreads. She explores the intersections where science and feelings meet as well as the horrors of both world wars. Many of the characters, especially the geneticists, are based on historical figures. Also, some of the characters appear in more than one story, which serves to link the stories as well as to let the reader know what became of them later in life.
Anthony Cannistra
Is it clear from the beginning that Andrea Barrett knows her science and her history well. Despite being a set of short stories based on lesser-known but still quite pivotal historical events, Barrett avoids the dryness and lack of interesting characters that usually comes with historical fiction. Indeed, her choice to display these stories through the lens of younger individuals lends a sort of freshness to these elements of history, as if they were only recently deposited in society's memory....more
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Reading Group Guide for Book Clubs 1 1 Jun 19, 2014 12:51PM  
  • Byzantium: Stories
  • Thunderstruck & Other Stories
  • A Guide to Being Born: Stories
  • The Collector of Lost Things
  • The Honey Thief
  • A Permanent Member of the Family
  • Bobcat and Other Stories
  • Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories
  • A Marker to Measure Drift
  • The Color Master: Stories
  • Stay Up With Me
  • We Others: New and Selected Stories
  • Understories
  • Lookaway, Lookaway
  • Amor and Psycho: Stories
  • Divinity of Doubt: The God Question
  • The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq
  • Brown Dog
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.
More about Andrea Barrett...
Ship Fever: Stories The Voyage of the Narwhal The Air We Breathe Servants of the Map Middle Kingdom

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