by Andrea Barrett
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Pub Date 13 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 31 Aug 2022
A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.
In Natural History, Andrea Barrett completes the beautiful arc of intertwined lives of a family of scientists, teachers, and innovators that she has been weaving through multiple books since her National Book Award–winning collection, Ship Fever. The six exquisite stories in Natural History are set largely in a small community in central New York state and portray some of her most beloved characters, spanning the decades between the Civil War to the present day. In “Henrietta and Her Moths,” a woman tends to an insect nursery as her sister’s life follows a different path. In “Open House,” a young man grapples with a choice between a thrilling life spent discovering fossils and a desire to remain close to home. And in the magnificent title novella, “Natural History,” Barrett deepens the connection between her characters, bringing us through to the present day and providing an unforgettable capstone.
Told with Barrett’s characteristic elegance, passion for science, and wonderful eye for the natural world, the psychologically astute and moving stories gathered in this collection evoke the ways women’s lives and expectations—in families, in work, and in love—have shifted across a century and more. Building upon one another, these tales brilliantly culminate to reveal how the smallest events of the past can have large reverberations across the generations, and how potent, wondrous, and strange the relationship between history and memory can be.
About the Author: Andrea Barrett is the author of nine previous works of fiction, including the National Book Award-winning Ship Fever and Pulitzer Prize finalist Servants of the Map. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Fellowship, as well as a finalist for the Story Prize and a recipient of the Rea Award for the Short Story. Having lived in Rochester, New York, and western Massachusetts, Barrett now resides in the Adirondacks.
A Note From the Publisher
LibraryReads votes are due by 8/1/22.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 15 members
As always, Andrea Barrett delivers an exquisite, thoughtful and richly detailed read in NATURAL HISTORY. This collection of short stories showcases her mastery of characterization and her passion for science and its impact on our lives. Highly recommended.
My thanks to Norton and to Netgalley for the opportunity and pleasure of an early read.
Natural History is a linked short story collection, and I'm normally distrustful of this structure, but I thought that Andrea Barrett overall did a good job with the form, particularly in the first section, where the characters are more closely intertwined. It was exciting to get to see little peeks at their lives, with certain things making more sense as I read further stories, or vice versa. Often a linked short story collection will feel as if it would have benefitted from either being a short story collection or a novel, and, to its credit, Natural History definitely felt like it needed to be a novel in stories.
Andrea Barrett is a shrewd observer who is capable of bringing characters to life quickly, with small details, and evoking a mood within a couple of sentences. I felt as if I were immersed in the lives and minds of her characters throughout.
I also loved the way Barrett deals with time in these stories. The stories mostly move forward in time, but there are a few little moves backward, that give important context and history. It kept me on my toes and always made sense!
Overall, I very much enjoyed my time with Natural History, and was grateful to be in the hands of a master storyteller like Andrea Barrett.
Thank you to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for giving me an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I highly recommend NATURAL HISTORY for fans of literary fiction. Andrea Barrett's writing is up to its customary stellar standards as she re-visits characters from prior works and deftly explores women's roles in society and families and the place and impact of science. This is a lush and deep collection that will stick with you.
Two women—friends, artists, scientists—try to make their way in a world that has other ideas for how they should be spending their time.
Andrea Barrett’s grand universe expands with this collection of stories. Readers will find interest and pleasure here whether or not they are familiar with her Marburg family, and those readers who are new to her work, will have the treat of her back catalog to enjoy once they’ve finished the collection.
These six linked short stories, including the novelette-length (50 pages) title story, call upon characters from Andrea Barrett's past collections, with the ground zero story being "The Marburg Sisters" from the author's National Book Award-winning Ship Fever. Set in the fictional town of Crooked Lake, NY, the stories move forward in time for the most part, with some well-placed backstories at just the right moments. The overarching narrative fleshes out women's roles in society and their interconnected lives, drawing upon themes of memory and science. This book is for those curious about the natural world as well as the wonders of the human heart.
[Thanks to W. W. Norton & Company and @BookBrowse for an opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of this book.]
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