Rebecca Donner on Andrea Barrett’s The Air We Breathe
The Air We Breathe:
by Andrea Barrett
$24.95 List Price
That a chemist figures prominently in Andrea Barrett’s new novel, The Air We Breathe, will come as no surprise to those familiar with her fiction. Over the past decade, Barrett has produced a novel and two story collections that dramatize an abiding fascination with scientists in late-nineteenth- and early-twentiethcentury milieus. Her characters, both historical and imaginary, have included botanists, geneticists, zoologists, biologists, and ornithologists. A genealogical chart is appended to Barrett’s latest offering, illustrating the latticework of relationships that unites major and peripheral characters in all four books. In this way, The Air We Breathe completes the author’s ingenious tetralogy.
The chemist in question is Leo Marburg, a Russian émigré admitted in 1916 to Tamarack State, a public sanatorium
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