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Friday, April 13, 2007

Ship Fever

by Andrea Barrett
I first read this book in June 2006. I suggested it to my f2f book club because we've never read a collection of short stories. So Tues. evening I will be presenting this book - telling a little about the author, mentioning other books she's written, and leading the discussion of this book. In preparing for this, I've reread all the stories. If anything, I enjoyed them even more the second time around. But I am afraid. If you may remember this is the same book group in which every person hated The History of Love and many hated The Poisonwood Bible - both books I'd recommended.

Science functions as both the subject matter and metaphor in these tales. That's the reason for my fears. With History of Love the group told me they didn't have time to ponder the symbolism; that they wanted to read for pure enjoyment. That's the main reason I read, too, but I think a book we are reading to discuss should have some substance to it, something to sink our teeth into.

Most of the stories are straightforward and enjoyable to read. The fact that they engage the mind is an added benefit. Publisher's Weekly reports, "The quantifiable truths of science intersect with the less easily measured precincts of the heart in these eight seductively stylish tales." Barrett's characters are usually fictional, but they have touched shoulders with people we recognize, such as Mendel, Linneaus, Alfred Wallace; and several we may not know, such as the Canadian doctor who directed the horrendous task of caring for Irish immigrants on Grosse Isle during the typhus epidemic of 1847.

Many of the characters try to prove themselves in both science and love, but are often thwarted by gender, social position, or prevailing order. The stories are engaging and interesting. Some of the best historical fiction I've read and even though one of the themes is science, it's not necessary to have a science background to enjoy them. I plan on reading this book again - it is that good.

13 comments:

Melanie said...

I really like this author, so I hope you have good luck with it in your book club! I'm glad you enjoyed it; I recall most strongly the first story, the one about Grosse Isle. Have fun...

Cassie said...

I'm on tenderhooks to see how your book club reacts. I think maybe you should find another book club that wants substance.

Lisa said...

I love this author, too! Voyage of the Narwhal is one of my all time favorites. I don't know why, but that book has stayed on my mind for years.

have fun discussing....

Kailana said...

I think this short story collection looks interesting. I don't usually buy short stories because I prefer novels, but I think I might add this to my wish list.

Bellezza said...

I remember you writing about the disappointment you felt after A History of Love, which I totally commisserated with because of the reception I had for my suggestion The Time Traveler's Wife. It's hard to put ourselves out on the line like that! I have been very reticent to suggest something again. I hope this book goes over well for you and everyone in your group.

Framed said...

I understand reading for enjoyment. But I don't mind a book that I have to think about. And I liked "History of Love." Well, I hope it goes better for you or they may not let you suggest any more books.

teabird17 said...

Thanks for reminding me about this book - I've looked at it a few times. It's right up my alley since two of my favorite things are short stories and science!
I'll be interested in the reaction of your book group, too.

Alyson said...

You've really turned into a rereader!! I'm so proud! :)

I can't imagine the point of a book club to discuss a book with no substance. I am all about reading for pleasure, but if I'm going to get together on a regular basis to discuss a book I expect it to have many things/differing view points to discuss. I also wouldn't expect to love/like every book, but I would go ready to discuss my view point along with other's view points. Hopefully this time will be a little more fulfilling. If not, I would take Cassie's advice and find another book club.

Framed said...

I visited the library today and MB and I discussed my A to Z list. She talked about how she had read books for bookclub that she would never have read otherwise. And that was a good thing. Is she in your bookclub?? Do you know who MB is??

Framed said...

Hope you are feeling better. We missed you at the cleanup.

Belladonna said...

First off, I LOVED Poisonwood Bible. I've read several of Kingsolver's works, but that one remains my favorite.

I'm not involved in any book groups right now, but I have been in the past. I LIKE having the chance to read books I am not initially attracted to and to be given the opportunity to say what I did or didn't like about them. So even though your group "hated" the book, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I think it does us good to explore our interests and tastes by way of comparison and discussion. Some will agree with what you enjoy and some will not. The fact that you all savor the intimate dance of reading - weaving the author's words into worlds you each experience in your own ways and then talking about it is a powerful thing. Personally, I'd prefer sharing reads with a group where there IS some diversity of opinions and interest rather than people who are idea-clones.

iliana said...

Good luck at your book group. I loved History of Love and Poisonwood Bible so I'm adding this one to my list. I had seen it but hadn't been motivated to read it until now :)

danielle said...

I also read Voyage of the Narwhal and really liked it. I keep meaninf to read this selection of short stories. I hope your book group liked it. I was always nervous recommending books I loved to a group I used to belong to--I was afraid they would hate it, too, and then I would be devastated!