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Natural History


by Andrea Barrett

Natural History by Andrea Barrett X
Natural History by Andrea Barrett
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  • Published Sep 2022
    208 pages
    Genre: Short Stories

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There are currently 23 member reviews
for Natural History
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  • Ann B. (Kernville, CA)
    Interlinked stories invoking generational memory, scientific wonder, ties that bind
    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.
  • Myrna M. (Chapel Hill, NC)
    A book that lingers
    This book sneaks up on you. Yes, the writing flows with simple yet elegant language--much like the foremost character Henrietta. Why should I care about her, an amateur scientist, a naturalist, an unmarried school teacher in a small town? Yet her life is a series of questions, like most of us she is confronted by decisions that will lead to the next decision--a twisty path of a life, like most of us have. And then there are the impacts her choices have on her family, her students.

    This is a quiet book of interconnected stories, focused on women in science in all its permutations. It's a book that lingers, that I didn't want to end. That is my highest accolade.
  • Julie Z. (Oak Park, IL)
    Natural History
    A beautifully written collection of short stories, all interconnecting with the characters appearing more than once. The setting is central New York, and the time spans the Civil War era to the present day. The subjects vary, but women in the fields of science/nature are the focus. There iss a tone in the writing that is evocative of a simpler and more elegant time and place, which set the tone for the stories. "Out on the porch, where the candles cast confusing shadows, a warm breeze pushed through the leaves encasing the columns, muting the words and music easing through the open parlor windows".

    Two of the characters- Henrietta Atkins and one of the "Marburg" sisters appeared in Barrett's earlier book- Ship Fever. Based on my opinion of Natural History, I will rush to read more of Barrett's work.
  • Elizabeth T. (Bradenton, FL)
    Natural History
    The six stories in Andrea Barrett's Natural History are similar to stepping stones in a Zen garden. In following Barrett's path we experience the interconnectedness of the natural world and the creatures who inhabit it.

    Each of the stories in this work threads through Henrietta Atkins, science teacher, mentor and naturalist. Spanning the decades from the Civil War to the present day, the characters balance familial expectations and for some a desire to experience the larger world. Through beautifully detailed descriptions and with an eye to the human condition, Barrett explores the complexities of life as well as the ties that bind us to the physical world.

    Of particular importance in each of the stories is the evolving role of women. The final story Natural History captures the nature of the female predicament, as women move from the margins to the mainstream of the scientific world.

    I have not read the author's previous work, but easily followed the stories progression. There is a grace to Barrett's writing that will not be easily forgotten and I look forward to recommending Natural History to my Book Club.
  • Nancy L. (Staunton, VA)
    Natural History
    "Natural History" by Andrea Barrett is the natural history of a community told in interconnected stories. The stories trace the families in the Clear Lake, New York area from the Civil War to Prohibition to modern times. Most of the stories are populated by strong, intelligent, and thoughtful women as they relate to each other and to the world around them. These women are teachers, scientists, and pilots who live in worlds dominated by men. They are, at times, tentative, and at other times fiercely independent. These are women I wish I knew. Andrea Barrett is a wonderful writer and I thoroughly enjoyed her stories.
  • Dorothy M. (Maynard, MA)
    Oh This is a Lovely Book
    Twenty five years ago Andrea Barrett's short story collection- Ship Fever - which won the National Book Award included a story called the The Marburg Sisters. Since then she has continued to explore this family, beginning in Ireland during the potato famine thru her other books. Natural History, her latest story collection, ends with Rose and Bianca born in the 1950's. And in case we missed the links, there is a family tree at the back of the book. The six stories in Natural History are closely linked and - as with all her writing - deal with well researched science and history, ranging from the civil war to the beginning of the aeronautical age. The greatest gift of this book, however, is her depth of understanding of her characters and their relationships with friends and family and colleagues. Her beautifully written stories show us these people with their dreams and expectations and, often, disappointments. Highly recommended.
  • Portia A. (Monroe Township, NJ)
    Another Book Browse winner
    As usual any book recommended by BookBrowse is worth reading. Written in a rather different format the story retained my interest through the entire book...please read it if you can.

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