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Ship Fever: Stories

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,393 ratings  ·  332 reviews
Alternate cover for ISBN 10 - 0393316009

In 1764, two Englishwomen set out to prove that swallows--contrary to the great Linnaeus's belief--do not hibernate underwater. But they must be patient and experiment in secret, such actions being inappropriate for the female of the species. In 1862, a hopeless naturalist heads off for yet another journey, though he can't seem to ri
Paperback, 254 pages
Published 1996 by W.W. Norton
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,393 ratings  ·  332 reviews

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Jun 04, 2009 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 clinched it for me.

Science and history come alive in the fictional story Barrett weaves around the true facts! Here one sees the advantage
May 10, 2015 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
Nov 21, 2007 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
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
Intelligent and compelling stories. Some left me feeling empty. I’m glad I read it, though.
Jan 02, 2012 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
Feb 19, 2009 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.
Lynn Weber
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The best tribute I can give is that I loved this book and I generally dislike short stories. It has the quality that I love best in art, of evoking that old-fashioned term, if not concept, of our "humanity." Which is everything, really.
Jun 18, 2007 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 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
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.
Mindy McAdams
Unusual stories, many centered on female characters, with a touch of science. That might mean Gregor Mendel and his experiments on peas and their connection to a modern-day marriage ("The Behavior of the Hawkweeds") or the travels and efforts of a young man contemporary with Alfred Russel Wallace but not nearly as successful ("Birds with No Feet"). "The Littoral Zone" is a sad but very well told story of an event, a meeting, that changes everything — and it happens on a biologists' research trip ...more
Aug 30, 2007 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.

Chitra Divakaruni
Mar 26, 2009 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.
Karen Floyd
May 17, 2007 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.
Skipped three stories.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading collections of short stories because when I am tired, it is nice to get through a whole story in one evening. This was a unique collection that featured some historical biologists in a fiction setting. The intertwining of botany, natural history, and epidemics with love-lost stories and historical fiction for me was pretty realistic and a nice change of pace from sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural fiction I've been reading lately. I greatly enjoyed "Ship Fever" highlighting the atrociou ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not a big fan of writing about nature or science, but the prose here is really beautiful. I especially enjoyed the title story (more like the length of a novella) about doctors working on Grosse Isle, Quebec, to treat Irish famine victims arriving with typhus in the 1850s, and all the stories set in the contemporary moment. Thanks to Holly for the recommendation!
Mike Zickar
True science fiction, that is fiction about science. I really enjoyed this collection of stories ranging from treatment of plagues, Linnaeus, Mendel, and others. . . A very delightful read.
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 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 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
Nov 13, 2013 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.
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.
Aug 05, 2007 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.
Sandra Novack
Jun 15, 2007 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.
Mar 08, 2009 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.
Emily Sessa
Barrett is a good writer, but this book made me realize that I am not comfortable with fictional re-imaginings of the lives of real, historical people. I would rather read a biography of Mendel or Linnaeus than a story-teller's take on their personalities and personal relationships, with specific events that are totally made up. A story like the title tale, about fever-ridden emigrants arriving in Canada and generally suffering terrible fates, would be much more interesting to me as a non-fictio ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A favorite author of mine. Her storytelling incorporates research and exploration of science and ties it to human endeavors, follies, obsessions.

I really like her use of characters (fictional and actual) in different stories. It is done in a way that feels realistic, like finding relationships in your own life that you hadn't known about.

'Ship Fever' p 239 "He [Lauchlin] became aware of a large, echoing space beyond the small space confining him...Count me, he thought, remembering a phrase he ha
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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 15 Dec 30, 2014 05:03AM  
She is my aunt!! 4 45 Jul 31, 2014 07:02AM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Ship Fever (Spoilers) 1 8 Sep 04, 2013 12:47PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: The Marburg Sisters (Spoilers) 1 10 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 3 Sep 04, 2013 12:42PM  
Get Your Shorts i...: Rare Bird (Spoilers) 1 4 Sep 04, 2013 12:41PM  

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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.