Andrea Barrett’s acclaimed novels and short-stories are marked by their investigation of scientific and historical themes. In this recording from the 2009 Key West Literary Seminar, Barrett explains how she began to write about science and history in the short story form after the disappointment of writing four unsuccessful novels. “With nothing to lose,” Barrett recounts, “I began to write about the thing that I actually loved the most, but had never dared to write fiction about before.” She follows this account with an excerpt from “Ship Fever,” the title novella of her National Book Award-winning first collection of short stories. In it, Lockland Grant, a bright young doctor who has come to the island of Gros Île in 1847 to treat the population of newly landed Irish immigrants, has fallen victim to the typhus epidemic raging through the community.
From KWLS 2009: Historical Fiction and the Search for Truth