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Servants of the Map
Andrea Barrett
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Servants of the Map

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  867 ratings  ·  102 reviews

"Luminous....Each [story] is rich and independent and beautiful and should draw Barrett many new admirers."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Ranging across two centuries, and from the western Himalaya to an Adirondack village, these wonderfully imagined stories and novellas travel the territories of yearning and awakening, of loss and unexpected discovery. A mapper of the
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published by Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc. (first published 2002)
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I discovered Andrea Barrett through Ship Fever: Stories, a collection of stories which won the National Book Award in 1996. For some reason I thought that I'd be reading science-fiction, but what I got instead was fiction about science - a rare breed, which I'll hopefully get to reviewing one day soon.

Andrea Barrett writes beautifully about very different people who all share several common traits: a desire to know, the ability to closely observe, analyze, and marvel at the wonder of discovery -
This is beautiful. I loved it even more than Ship Fever. These stories, many of them taking place in the 19th century, are about people who are drawn to science as a way to understand their world. The surprising way the characters connect between stories (and between books) kept me fascinated. I can't wait to read more of her work.
For someone who has a science background and loves historical fiction AND serials, this book of short stories was a delight. Barrett's prose is beautiful and she renders somewhat complicated subject matter (not to mention arcane) as fascinating. I love that she weaves (ever so subtly) characters from many of her stories together throughout the book, and I understand that in fact the characters and some of the tales are carried through many of her books... which can only mean that I will half abo ...more
Women who love science--as I do--often find ourselves "odd ducks" in the halls of academia as well as in literature, but Andrea Barrett delights in women characters who are passionate about science without being dull or quirky. Barrett observes and reports on her characters and their quests with the eye of someone trained in science, and the result is stories that both teach and delight.
These long stories concern themselves with the passionate dedication of those intrepid women and men whose commitment to their work became their whole life.
May 11, 2008 MicheleinNJ rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys a good book and especially anyone who enjoys a little science with their fiction.
Another great book from Andrea Barrett, this one of short stories and novellas. It helps to have at least a rudimentary interest in science, but it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy her books. She weaves bits of science in with the lives of the people who inhabit her books, making it all interesting. While the main characters are fictional, in all her books Barrett also casually includes real people in minor roles in a way that I find delightful. In one story, "Theories of Rain," the main cha ...more
I believe Servants of the Map was a recommendation from here - if so, thanks to whoever mentioned it!

It's a collection of short stories, with an overarching theme of how the study of science influences our lives. For example, the title story's protagonist is a cartographer, mapping the Himalayas at the turn of the century. There are also links between the characters in the different stories - sometimes hard to find (at least if you're reading this in bits & pieces). The characters were enga
Dec 01, 2007 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sandy
Since reading Ship Fever, I have become a huge Andrea Barrett fan. This collection of stories amazes with the links to those in her other collection. In "The Forest", she expands on her tale of the Marburg sisters, in essence diving into one of the openings she created in her initial story. Most of the stories she composes are riddled with esoteric scientific information and factoids, woven together like threads in a fine tapestry to create a complete story. In the title story, she takes a littl ...more
Short stories which are really connected in some way and seem more like a novel are the basis for this book. It was interesting to see how the various characters and even objects in a box were interconnected. All of the main characters in this book were curious about the natural world or science in some way. I was happy to meet again some characters that I had first met in Voyage of the Narwhal. Someday I would like to re-read the book and make a time line and diagram of how these people are int ...more
Jennifer Osterman
I thought that I would like this book of short stories better than I did. The subject matter, natural history, is one of great interest to me, however I found the stories a bit dry. The 19th century views of science that she portrayed were quite entertaining, and the prose gave me the feel of walking though a Victorian museum filled with curio cabinets containing jars of esoterica with handwritten paper labels.

Many people who gave this book high reviews were entertained by the fact that these st
Jul 28, 2007 katharine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Peggy
Shelves: favorites
I read this collection of short stories in under 24 hours, they are incredibly captivating. The stories look at the influence of science on human character and the changing role of the scientist in society from amateur investigators in the 19th c. to high powered grant winners in the 20th c. The genealogy of all the characters are interwoven, so you see resonances between the stories over multiple decades and generations. I also love that the author is from my home town of Rochester, NY.
Nov 27, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who love science
This collection of stories is amazing. Andrea Barrett draws you into the lives of scientists as they mapped the Himalayas centuries ago to those researching today. Her control of point of view gives the reader the feeling they are living inside these people's heads, as the characters struggle to move science forward while living real lives. Powerful stuff.
Okay, after reading every book Barrett has written, each a fabulous and unique experience, she can still surprise me. She is able to weave characters from "Ship Fever" into a completely new collection of short stories. It is actually mindboggling to me. Fantastic!
Juanita Rice

I first encountered the writing of Andrea Barrett a number of years ago when I chanced to see this title and was almost spellbound by the metaphorical ramifications—all the people and all the ways it could be applied: "Servants of the Map" indeed! I was not disappointed. Barrett is unique in my experience (and I've now read five of her books from Lucid Stars (1988) to The Air We Breathe ( 2007/). Barrett writes predominantly about science and history, and about geography and genealogies. She rec
Beautiful stories, particularly for those with an affinity for science, evolution or botany. I love how the stories stand alone and span multiple eras and geographies, but that the characters interconnect in unexpected ways. Actually they connect across this book, Ship Fever: Stories and The Voyage of the Narwhal, and another book that is in progress. Each story in this book explores how scientific inquiry plays a role in the decisions one makes to carve a future for themselves and sometimes (or ...more
Sep 06, 2013 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interests: fiction about natural science, 19th-century US east coast life, Victoriana
I loved this collection of stories, and I will be exploring more of Barrett's work in the future. She weaves a subtle web of family connection and passion among the characters throughout her distinct tales, making them not so much a series as an interlocking puzzle. Key to that puzzle is the cognitive dissonance that unexpected interconnections sometimes create - a thesis that objective awareness and acceptance of these unexpected and untidy "coincidences" is vital to a full understanding and ex ...more
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
I found this book more satisfying than Ship Fever, which won a National Book Award... perhaps because it resurrected characters from that book and added richness and context to their personal histories. I'm a fan of that sort of serialization -- "elliptical family sagas", I guess you'd call them -- having been a long-time reader of Louise Erdrich, a big fan of "Winesburg, Ohio", and before that, a devotee of Stephen King and all his many interconnected Castle Rock and Derry residents.

This is a g
Tim Lepczyk
I'd heard about Andrea Barrett's short story collection Servants of the Map, years ago while living in Nebraska. It was shuffled away on my to read list, and for some reason the book rose up again on my horizon. When I began it, I had a sense of dejavu. It all seemed so familiar. I'm pretty sure I've read the title story in an anthology. It's a good story, captivating and interesting. The main character is surveying the Himalayan mountains as part of the British surveying teams in the 1800's.

Mary Stephanos
Layered like the strata of an archaeological site, the stories of Andrea Barrett's "Servants of the Map" drift back and forth in time, the characters and plots speaking to each other across stories. In this work, Barrett comes back to many of the characters she introduced in her earlier story collection, "Ship Fever," and her novel "The Voyage of the Narwhal." The effect is delightfully dizzying but requires patience on the part of the reader, as well as a willingness to immerse oneself complete ...more
It was a gift from my sister-in-law Kelly. She knows I love to read!

The stories in this book are all written by the same author, Andrea Barrett. there are 6 total ranging in length approx. 25-90 pages each. So it's easy to read one and then put the book down and pick up on another one. Great for busy moms! All of the stories revolve around the theme of science discovery and exploration. With only 2 of the 6 being completely set in the modern day world.

My favorite of the 6 is called "The Forest"
I loved the title story when I first read it in the Best American Short Stories, and the rest did not disappoint. Barrett successfully hit on two points that make me weak in the knees: she invoked the natural world through passion and profession of her characters, using the specificity of a field guide and the true appreciation of someone who knows her science; and though this is a collection of short stories, characters resurfaced, and the reader was allowed to murmur, "So *that* is what happen ...more
I enjoyed reading this. The narrative voice and I were not really friends. The little threads between all the characters speed me through in a weekend of mornings, bustling for news of relatives and small glimpses of their adventures. I'm now enjoying thinking about naturalists in the golden era of the citizen philosopher-scientist. Inspiring. Let's go on slow walks to look at rocks and speculate about our rampant diseases. Yup.
Susan Emmet
I was engrossed by this collection of long short stories. I haven't read anything else by Barrett, so I couldn't make connections between characters from other books, but didn't feel limited by that.
The anthology spans the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - botanists, cartographers, teachers, sanitarium owners - and many settings - the Himalayas, upstate NY, the Midwest, Europe.
The sweep of scientific and cultural ideas is daunting and the prose is elegant and clear. Characters are brought to
Two people, separately, had given me this book, I guess because I like science, but also, I realize after reading it, because they're just amazing, tender, smart stories. My mother, one of the people who gave me the book, somewhere found a family tree to accompany the book, which is tied together through blood in the various stories, through generations, but subtly enough that you might not realize right away, or even after a few stories. As a whole, it's brilliant. I recommended to a friend, wh ...more
At first I struggled to keep up with all the intergenerational connections the characters within each story have, but then realized it better to let it be revealed by and by.
To me, the main theme was in the contrast of how connected people can be even though they lived in different times/places against how disconnected people of the same family and generation can become by either distance or sentiment.
I appreciate the common thread of science between the characters, but that is not really what
I really liked this book of short stories dealing with people who love discovering the world through observation. Though each story takes place during different time periods from the 1800s up to more or less current time many of these science loving people connect to characters in the different stories in fascinating ways. I felt like I was fossil collecting along with them as I read these stories and found people and even objects turning up in a completely new layer of time. Fine author. I look ...more
I love the way her characters interweave throughout all the stories. Not just in this book, either. Her books make me want to be a scientist.
Jean Ives
This was a book I didn't expect to like, because I generally don't favor short stories. But this collection of six, which I received as a gift, I liked a lot. Barrett's attention to historical and geographic detail lends authenticity to each story, and the relationships between characters equally so. No smarmy love stories here--My favorite was about a man who in the 1800s reluctantly departs from his family in England(?) to join a scientific expedition to map the Himalayas. His view of himself, ...more
This selection of short stories covers a period from the early 1800s to the present. Though each story could stand alone, characters repeat from story to story (the major characters of one story often showing up as minor characters or ancestors in another). All of the characters are seekers of one sort or another. Some are seeking scientific knowledge, some lost family members, some a place in the world. Their quests are generally more successful than not, but never completely satisfactory--and ...more
Good unified collection. Love her writing style. Her love of history, exploration mirrors examination of the universal heart.
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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.
More about Andrea Barrett...
Ship Fever: Stories The Voyage of the Narwhal The Air We Breathe Archangel: Fiction Middle Kingdom

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“He will break it to her gently, he thinks. A hint, at first; a few more suggestions in letters over the coming months; in September he'll raise the subject. By then...Perhaps he'll have more encouragement from Dr. Hooker by then, which he can offer to Clara as evidence that his work is worthwhile. Perhaps he'll understand by then how he might justify his plans to her. For now - what else can he say in this letter? He has kept too much from her, these last months. If his letters were meant to be a map of his mind, a way for her to follow his trail, then he has failed her. Somehow, as summer comes to these peaks and he does his job for the last time, he must find a way to let her share in his journey. But for now all he can do is triangulate the first few points.” 2 likes
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