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Ship Fever: Stories

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,736 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews
The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams.

In "Ship Fever," the title novella, a yo
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 29, 2009 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Joanna
Thank you Joanna for really pushing and pushing for me to read this - you see I do not like short stories! Joanna didn't give up on me b/c she knew what I like in books and she knew this book just could not be missed, despite that it was short stories. If you like short stories, you would probably give it 5 stars. The last story Ship Fever was longer and that cinched it for me.

Science and history come alive in the fictional story Barrett weaves around the true facts! Here one sees the advantage
Jun 22, 2016 Eva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written short stories.
Effortlessly Andrea Barrett ties together natural science and fiction, the Old World and the New World, historical fictional accounts and actual events as well as failures and successes.
She connects science and poetry in a way that shows a world at once small and personal as well as foreign and mysterious. There's the second-generation immigrant who guards her grandfather's story about Mendel like a treasure, or the 19th century specimen collector who comes to t
Jun 27, 2014 Candice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with an appreciation of science
I put this on my "to read" list after reading The Air We Breathe as some of the same characters are in both books. This is a book of short stories. The title story takes place in 1847 and is based on a real event. The potato famine in Ireland has forced many of its starving citizens to emigrate to the U.S. and Canada. Many of the immigrants are suffering from "ship fever" or typhus, and a hospital is set up for them on Grosse Isle in Canada. But the number of people afflicted with the disease is ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why oh why did I not come to Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever earlier? The familiarity of the first story in the collection, "The Behavior of the Hawkweeds," leads me to believe that a thoughtful instructor introduced Barrett to me some time ago, but for whatever reason it's taken me this long to get around to reading the whole collection.

Glad I did though, however late. So few authors write historical/scientific fiction as well as Barrett, and her command over setting and character is nothing short
Jun 18, 2007 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once I got started, I found it hard to put down this collection of short stories. I especially liked Barrett's weaving together of actual/factual scientific situations with fictionalized stories. My personal favorite in the collection is "The Marburg Sisters." This story doesn't combine reality and fiction in the same way as the others. In fact there was something about the story that put me in mind of "Divisidero." Perhaps it is my recent reading of the novel that made this feel almost like an ...more
Jul 05, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-anth
The writing is lovely, nearly perfect. The construction of the individual vignettes are solid as can be. She has a wonderful sense of narrative and dialog. However.

I wanted so much for the vignettes to be connected by something more than the myriad ways in which good people fail as scientists. The themes seemed to be inappropriate love, gender discrimination, hubris, lack of inspiration, demanding families, etc, ad nauseam. For me, it was immensely depressing. She may have meant to humanize scie
Feb 19, 2009 Angele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barrett's fascination with science and scientists--the real and imagined, the great and obscure--is the common link in this book of exceptional stories. Fresh insights into Linneaus, Mendel, and Darwin will haunt the reader as deeply as the struggles of Barrett's fictional Laughlin Grant and Nora Kynd in the title novella--in which doctors, patients, and social crusaders battle ignorance and prejudice along with the "black fever" brought by Irish immigrants to 1840's Canada.
Patricia Costa Viglucci
Science has never particularly intrigued me and I certainly never saw the romance of the subject. That changed when I began reading Andrea Barrett who weaves fictional stories with natural history. A fellow Rochesterian at one time, Barrett and my husband Carmen were in a critique group together and he related with pleasure her comments about his memoir--then in its early stages.

Reading reviews of her latest work, "Archangel," the above memory took hold. I read several stories from the new book
Aug 30, 2007 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fiction lovers
Another great set of short stories from Barrett. Here she establishes the characters who appear in her next volume, Servant of Maps. The best story is the title one- Ship Fever, which follows a doctor who handles immigrants from Ireland into Canada's St. Lawrence river. The immigrants are fleeing starvation, and the Ship Fever epidemic refers to typhus. The doctor also has an unrequited love for a young woman married to his best friend. Very historical stories, others focus on gathering wild ani ...more
I picked this up at the library booksale because I enjoyed Voyage of the Narwhal and the author's approach to historical fiction. I didn't like Ship Fever quite as much, but it's very well-written. I found some of the stories very distressing---mostly in the extremes some of the characters go to in the name of science. But the stories were interesting in the way they incorporate themes of biology and/or natural sciences.

Karen Floyd
May 17, 2007 Karen Floyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Particularly liked the story "Rare Bird," about a woman trying to educate herself as a naturalist while struggling against the social rules imposed on Victorian women. The title story is about a young doctor who goes to work at Canada's quarantine island where thousands upon thousands emigrants fleeing the Irish Potato Famine arrived bringing a typhus epidemic with them. Grim and inspiring.
Joslyn Allen
Winner of the National Book Award in 1996, this collection of short stories by Andrea Barrett revolves on a theme of scientific inquiry and a preoccupation with the natural world. Barrett's writing is crisp and precise; her stories are developed with carefully chosen language and controlled emotion. Though far from cold, her writing does give the feeling of a remove from the characters, a scientific objectivity that perhaps is meant to let the reader's own empathies and emotions provide the ambi ...more
Leisha Wharfield
Jun 25, 2015 Leisha Wharfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend gave me this book and once I started reading the stories, I could not put it down. Took it everywhere with me -- absolutely loved the marriage of high-quality fiction with science history. Who knew scientists once seriously considered that swallows winter over in lake bottoms or on the moon? I learned about these theories in my favorite story, "Rare Birds," where the rare birds are not swallows -- not yet, Rachel -- but women in the late 1700s who wished to explore reality via the scien ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Jocelyn by: read in Dr. Todd Petersen's class
With these stories, Andrea Barrett stepped onto the pedestal of my heroes. Her attention to craft is simply superb: the way she transfers consciousness from one character to another; her lucid, compact descriptions; the humanity which her characters possess. I want to write like this someday.

Perhaps what I admire most is Barrett's subjects: science stuff, not normally intriguing to the English geek. Yet, Barrett obviously has a deep interest in science and so writes about the people behind the t
Apr 08, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently I'm a history of science nerd. I loved the historical stories -- particularly the atmospheric story about Carl Linnaeus's final days, and "Ship Fever," a wrenching story about the Irish potato famine emigrants and the quarantine efforts on Grosse Ile, and the brilliant one about the embittered 19th-century specimen collector, who could only dream of Alfred Russel Wallace's success. The contemporary stories did not captivate me nearly as much.

I'll definitely read Andrea Barrett again.
Jul 12, 2015 Sharyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are eight stories in this book, Ship Fever being by far the longest. It's an absorbing and tragic novella about the starved and disease-stricken Irish who emigrated to Canada during the potato famine in the 1840's, and also about a doctor who tried to make a difference.

The Behavior of the Hawkweeds--engaging and sad story weaved around a connection with Gregor Mendel. I admired the symmetry of this piece.

The English Pupil--short, slice-of-life type look at what might have been the latest s
Nov 12, 2014 Bridget rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
I have been curious about this book and when I found it in the stacks of the library where I work, I decided to make it a book I would read at work. I started last July, but then with surgery and recovery, didn't finish until today. (We are not allowed to take books out of the library, so it had to stay there.)

This is a series of stories, rather than a novel. As is the case with these types of things, I really liked two of them, liked most others well enough, and only really wasn't interested in
Aug 06, 2007 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scientists and short-story fans
Hey all you scientists, you should read this. Excellent short stories and one novella, which relate to significant events in natural history. Barrett's characters cross paths with everyone from Mendel to Linnaeus, collect exotic birds in the jungles, and experience a typhus epidemic. It's good for non-scientists too. A worthy winner of the National Book Award.
Chitra Divakaruni
May 16, 2012 Chitra Divakaruni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: influences
Barrett is an extremely original writer. These stories & the novella, set mostly in earlier times, deal with the intersection of women and science. The characters come vibrantly alive in their longing for a life larger than what society allows them. Lovely images. Brilliant structure. I teach this collection quite often in my Creative Writing classes.
I would give 4 stars to the main story "Ship Fever" and 3 stars to the other stories in this book. Ship Fever is about the Irish imigration through Canada (Grosse Island) in the 1800s. It was a beautifully written piece of historical fiction and makes you want to go read more about this horrible period of history.
Sandra Novack
Jun 15, 2007 Sandra Novack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection is excellent--smooth prose, a clean line of action. Ship Fever is an especially good choice for those who wish to "transdiscourse" and pull in information about science, historical figures, etc. to narratives and have the information work gracefully within the context of character and story.
This was the most fabulous short story collection I have ever read. I loved loved this book. Every story was beautifully written and engrossing. All of them connected to natural history in some way, which kept a flow to the book even though the stories were not connected to each other in any other way.
Mar 21, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are wonderful stories especially the historical ones about the lengths that scientific pioneers went to. Ship Fever is one of the most wonderful and saddest things that I think I have ever read. According to the acknowledgements, the ships from Ireland to Canada during the mid 1840s full of starving Irish emigrants were real and as horrible as portrayed in the story. Those brave brave doctors, nurses and priests! And the discrimination that the Irish experienced was especially poignant bec ...more
Mar 08, 2009 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eight short stories that combine science and historical fiction. An unusual combination but I found the stories to be thoughtful, original, and very interesting. I was still thinking about it several days after I read it.
Feb 12, 2016 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories in this collection are on the whole well written and offer interesting perspectives on how scientific pursuits (especially early or "naturalistic" branches like botany, zoology, etc) affect people's lives (especially romantic lives). But the stories are rather uneven; some are great while others suffer from lack of sympathetic characters, poorly-explained or connected science, and other problems. But the collection as a whole is certainly worth reading, especially for Barrett's insig ...more
Austen to Zafón
A surprisingly diverse collection of stories all centering on the science of biology in some way. Linnaeus, Mendel, and Darwin star or are mentioned in several stories. If you think science is boring, think again! My favorite stories were the title story, about a doctor trying to save immigrants from Ireland to Canada during the hellish typhus epidemic; the Hawkweeds story which focuses on Gregor Mendel; "Rare Bird" about a woman who wants to be a scientist but is constrained by Victorian mores; ...more
Dave Mills
Dec 10, 2015 Dave Mills rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stay away if you need a "feel good" book. This isn't it. But it is a well-written, emotional, moving book of stories that combines science and fiction. "Ship Fever," the final story, will move you to tears (if it doesn't, then alas for you). Irish immigrants, disease, starvation, quarantine, death, and, in the middle of all this, a sentence: "A cardinal perched in a pyracantha whistled his four-note summons again and again." Barrett's wonderful at that kind of juxtaposition. And this sentence fr ...more
Doc Opp
This book is a collection of short stories, loosely related to the theme of science and medicine. The quality of the stories range wildly. The best are truly outstanding and memorable, and the worst are dull and somewhat incoherent. If you happen across this book, I highly recommend English Pupil (which is one of the best short stories I've read) and to a somewhat lesser extent the title story, Ship Fever (which is quite compelling, but not at the level of English Pupil). I recommend skipping Th ...more
Timothy Riley
This is a number of Science influenced short stories some containing famous scientists. The story about Grosse Island near Quebec during the Irish famine and forced emigration. The Doctor's story is well told, exciting with good character development. The details of the famine and outbreak of disease in Ireland with the forced expulsion of poor Irish from the island who the English withheld food from. Her main influence for that story was The Great Hunger, another book I read and found fascinati ...more
Victor Davis
Nov 12, 2015 Victor Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I forget exactly how I came across this book, but the appeal obviously had something to do with the intersection of short stories with science, two of my favorite genres. Yes, this is a collection of short stories about science. Some characters & stories are fictional but all are at least inspired by, if not based on, real people and events. This in of itself is stunning. I'm actually surprised after reading it that I haven't encountered this concept before. Why haven't writers been interest ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's The Name o...: SOLVED Short stories that read like historical fiction about scientists [s] 2 14 Dec 30, 2014 05:03AM  
She is my aunt!! 4 44 Jul 31, 2014 07:02AM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Ship Fever (Spoilers) 1 7 Sep 04, 2013 12:47PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: The Marburg Sisters (Spoilers) 1 8 Sep 04, 2013 12:46PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Birds with No Feet (Spoilers) 1 2 Sep 04, 2013 12:44PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Soroche (Spoilers) 1 2 Sep 04, 2013 12:42PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Rare Bird (Spoilers) 1 4 Sep 04, 2013 12:41PM  
  • The Field of Vision
  • Blood Tie
  • The Waters of Kronos
  • A Crown of Feathers
  • Ten North Frederick
  • Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories
  • The Hair of Harold Roux
  • Paco's Story
  • Morte D'Urban
  • A Frolic of His Own
  • Spartina
  • The Eighth Day
  • The News from Paraguay
  • The Magic Barrel
  • In America
  • Easy in the Islands
  • Middle Passage
  • The Spectator Bird
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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