Synopses & Reviews
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.
A luminescent, long-awaited new collection from the National Book Award winner.
The first motorized bicycles, the first aeroplanes, the first amateur studies of genetics — twelve-year-old Constantine Boyd has his eyes opened to an unfolding world of scientific discovery in “The Investigators.” In “The Ether of Space,” “The Island,” and “The Particles,” young women and men passionate about the workings of the natural world experience the shock waves of Einstein’s, Darwin’s, and Mendel’s work. And in “Archangel,” Constantine Boyd returns as a soldier on the desolate fringes of Russia in 1919, where even the newly discovered magic of X-ray technology fails to offer the insight that might protect humans from the stupidity of war.
In five radiant stories that explore both the wonder and the sense of loss that come with scientific progress, as well as the personal passions and impersonal politics that shape knowledge, Andrea Barrett has once again given us new ways to understand ourselves: curious, brilliant, and often blind investigators.
About the Author
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.