Archangel: Book summary and reviews of Archangel by Andrea Barrett

Archangel

by Andrea Barrett

Archangel by Andrea Barrett X
Archangel by Andrea Barrett
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013
    256 pages
    Genre: Short Stories/Essays

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Book Summary

Winner of the National Book Award for her collection of stories Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett has become one of our most admired and beloved writers. In this magnificent new book, she unfolds five pivotal moments in the lives of her characters and in the history of knowledge.

During the summer of 1908, twelve-year-old Constantine Boyd is witness to an explosion of home-spun investigation - from experiments with cave-dwelling fish without eyes to scientifically bred crops to motorized bicycles and the flight of an early aeroplane. In 1920, a popular science writer and young widow tries, immediately after the bloodbath of the First World War, to explain the new theory of relativity to an audience (herself included) desperate to believe in an "ether of space" housing spirits of the dead.

Half a century earlier, in 1873, a famous biologist struggles to maintain his sense of the hierarchies of nature as Darwin's new theory of evolution threatens to make him ridiculous in the eyes of a precocious student. The twentieth-century realms of science and war collide in the last two stories, as developments in genetics and X-ray technology that had once held so much promise fail to protect humans—among them, a young American soldier, Constantine Boyd, sent to Archangel, Russia, in 1919—from the failures of governments and from the brutality of war.

In these brilliant fictions rich with fact, Barrett explores the thrill and sense of loss that come with scientific progress and the personal passions and impersonal politics that shape all human knowledge.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Barrett's consummate historical stories of family, ambition, science, and war are intellectually stimulating, lushly emotional, and altogether pleasurable." - Booklist

"[A] few missteps don't counter the overall power of the book; there is indeed a sense of expansion as one travels onward in Barrett's world, and pleasure in watching it fill out." - Publisher Weekly

"The award-winning author returns with another collection of stories distinguished by uncommon scope and depth... Barrett's stories rank with the best." - Kirkus

"Readers familiar with Barrett's work will embrace this new volume; those who have yet to discover her intriguing style will find much to consider. A delight for informed readers of challenging literary fiction." - Library Journal

"[With] scientific precision and warm insight, Barrett translates the unknown into our world of reference. Her characters' thirst for discovery is contagious, and every story in Archangel is suffused with the most miraculous horizon light." - Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove

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Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

Archangel
Late 1800's and near the turn of the new century and scientific investigation and many inventions are at the forefront of this novel of short stories.

Loved the first story and twelve yr. old Constatine Boyd, who leaves his home to spend summers with his uncles. In 1908 the uncle he is sent to is in a village that has many investigators and inventors, experiments, first efforts at flight and many other things. What makes this story for me is Constatine's enthusiasm, he looks at everything with such a sense of wonder. The reason he spends summers with his uncles is also poignantly revealed.

The second story I was not drawn into, but the other three were very good. Two of the stories included young women trying to convince people that they belong in the world of science, that they can have a place. The last story. the title story, I again loved because it ends as it started with Constatine. Of course he is grown up now.

So science and character studies in a well written book. Really enjoy her writing.

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Author Information

Andrea Barrett

Andrea Barrett was born in Boston, MA in 1954 and grew up on Cape Cod. She studied biology at Union College, in Schenectady, NY and started writing fiction in her twenties, after several brief stints in graduate school. She lived in Rochester, NY for many years and now lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, photographer Barry Goldstein. She's the author of six novels, most recently The Air we Breathe, and three collections of stories: Ship Fever, which received the 1996 National Book Award, Servants of the Map, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Archangel.

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