by Andrea Barrett (read June 2006)
I love Barrett's writing, she takes one strand after another and weaves them together so that at the end of a story she's created a very pleasing and satisfying piece of work. This collection contains eight stories - six are marvelous, the other two are so-so.
"In the graphic title novella, a self-doubting, idealistic Canadian doctor's faith in science is sorely tested in 1847 when he takes a hospital post at a quarantine station flooded with diseased, dying Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. The story, which deftly exposes English and Canadian prejudice against the Irish, turns on the doctor's emotions, oscillating between a quarantined Irish woman and a wealthy Canadian lady, his onetime childhood playmate." - from Publishers Weekly. This is a most remarkable story. Even if you don't read the other stories in this book, you should read this one.
The English Pupil dealt with the end of Linneaus' life when he suffered from Alzheimers - sensitive and sad. The Behavior of Hawkweeds is a modern story with links to Mendel. Rare Birds is about 2 women in 1762 who behaved most unladylike and conducted experiments to disprove Linnaeus' theory that sparrows wintered over by 'hibernating' in frozen lakes.
I rate this book 4.5 - deducting a little for the 2 lame stories.