A Fierce Radiance: A Novel

A Fierce Radiance: A Novel

by Lauren Belfer

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Overview

A Washington Post Best Novel of the Year

An NPR Best Mystery of the Year

This suspenseful novel from the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light follows a photojournalist as she takes on an assignment that will involve blackmail, espionage, and murder—all in the early days of America’s involvement in World War II.

In the anxious and uncertain days after Pearl Harbor, beautiful, talented Life magazine photojournalist Claire Shipley is assigned to cover the clinical testing of a new medication at the renowned Rockefeller Institute in New York. Still grieving the death of her young daughter from an infection, Claire is shocked by what she finds there: the doctors and researchers are attempting to cure fatal infections with a little-known, temperamental medicine made from green mold, which they’re calling penicillin—and that may be just the beginning of their breakthroughs.

As the nation plunges into war, Claire begins an intense love affair with James Stanton, an Institute physician given the difficult, top-secret task of coordinating penicillin research for the military. Meanwhile Claire’s long-estranged father, a self-made millionaire entrepreneur, is realizing the potential of the new mold-derived medications to transform the very nature of human existence.

When James’s sister and colleague dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes involved in the antibiotic breakthrough become starkly clear. Caught between the extremes of war and greed, Claire finds her new relationship challenged in ways she could never have predicted.

At once a thriller, a love story, a family saga, and a window into the tumultuous home front during World War II, A FIERCE RADIANCE will captivate readers.

 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061252525
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/29/2011
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 173,001
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Lauren Belfer’s novel A Fierce Radiance was named a Washington Post Best Novel; an NPR Best Mystery; and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller as well as a number one Book Sense pick; a New York Times Notable Book; a Library Journal Best Book; and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

A Fierce Radiance

A Novel
By Lauren Belfer

Harper Perennial

Copyright © 2011 Lauren Belfer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061252525


Chapter One

Wednesday Morning, December 10, 1941
The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York City

Claire Shipley was no doctor, but even she could see that the man
on the stretcher was dying. His lips were blue from lack of oxygen.
gen. His cheeks were hollow, his skin leathery and tight against his
bones. His eyes were open but unfocused, like the glass eyes in a box
at a doll factory she'd once photographed. Although his hair was full
and dark brown, not gray, Claire pegged him at over eighty. His head
swayed from side to side as the orderlies slid the stretcher out of the
ambulance and onto the gurney. Beneath the once-white blanket, his
right leg was grotesquely swollen.
Making a split-second appraisal of the scene, guided by intuition,
Claire crouched and pivoted until she found the best angle. Using the
35 mm lens, she stopped down on the Leica to increase the depth of
field. She took a quick series of photos, bracketing to guarantee the
exposure: the patient in profile and a half-dozen nurses, doctors, and
orderlies gathered around him, like a group portrait by Rembrandt,
their faces saying their thoughts. They knew he was dying, too. Out
here in the cold without their coats on, with the man looking dead
already and nobody else nearby but Claire, they dispensed with their
usual cheery and encouraging expressions.
The group proceeded into the hospital. Claire followed, the others
oblivious to her. She was like a spy, paid to fit in, to hide in plain
sight, her identity and her loyalties concealed. Her ability to hide in
plain sight was a paradox, even to herself, because she was physically
striking. Had the others taken the time to notice her, they would have
seen a thirty-six-year-old woman filled with the confidence and glamor
of success, tall, slender, strong, her arms and shoulders shaped
from carrying heavy photographic equipment. Her thick dark hair
fell in waves to her shoulders. Her face was broad, her features well
defined. She wore her usual winter uniform of loose navy blue trousers,
cashmere sweater over silk blouse, and a beige fleece-lined jacket
with eight pockets. It was a hunter's jacket, and she'd ordered it from a
specialty store. Claire Shipley was a hunter: searching and waiting for
the proper angle, the telling moment, for a narrative to give sense to
the jumble of existence.
Upstairs, the group crowded into a private room. In one coordinated
heave the orderlies shifted the patient from the gurney to a bed.
The man moaned. At least the orderlies were quick. The staff bustled
around the bed, taking the patient's pulse, drawing blood, rearranging
his useless limbs. In the enclosed space, the rotting stench he gave off
assaulted Claire. She felt a constriction of revulsion and forced herself
to ignore it, because the man's eyes were alive now. Golden brown
eyes, shifting slowly, their movement consuming his energy. His eyes
followed the voices of the nurses. When Claire's daughter, Emily, was
a newborn, her delicate face peering from a wrap of pink blankets, her
eyes had followed Claire's voice around the room just so while Claire's
husband held her.
Claire felt a piercing ache. Her daughter had died seven and a half
years ago. June 13 would mark eight years. Rationally, Claire knew
that seven and a half years was a long time. Nonetheless sudden,
intense memories jarred her, bringing Emily back with painful clarity.
Claire's husband was gone, too, although by now she could usually
keep a mental door closed on the anger and despondency that had
followed his departure. Automatically Claire did a maternal check-in:
her younger child, Charlie, was safe at school. Later he would be
at home following his usual routine with Maritza, their housekeeper,
who was like a grandmother to him.
At the recollection of tucking a wool scarf into Charlie's coat this
morning, Claire confronted the dying man before her. Outside, he'd
been easy to objectify. Here, with the movement of his eyes, he became
an individual. Someone's husband, dad, son, brother. His fate became
personal. Focusing on his eyes, Claire opened the camera's aperture to
narrow the depth of field. She wanted to portray the staff and equipment
as blurry and ominous, the way he must be experiencing them.
Claire couldn't help herself: there was Emily, lying on her bed at
home, too weak to fight on, lost to infection, strands of her curly, light
brown hair sticking to her cheeks. The well-meaning doctor who visited
each day couldn't help her. Claire held Emily's hand long past the
moment when Emily's spirit or soul or spark—whatever constituted
life—slipped away. In a wave of delayed recognition, Claire understood
that Emily was no longer simply resting after her terrible, twisting
struggle, but was lifeless. Without life. Dead. After a moment
Emily's eyes opened, staring at the ceiling without seeing it. Her pale
blue eyes seemed to turn white while Claire watched. Screams of torment
consumed Claire in waves, even though someone else seemed to
Claire to be screaming, a kind of ghost self within her.
Charlie woke from his nap in the next room. "Mama," he called.
"Mama."
Whom did he want? Claire wondered as she heard his cries. She
was immobilized by a dense weight within her chest. Then Claire
realized with a start that she was his mother. The "mama" Charlie called
for was her. She heard footsteps in the hallway. A voice hushed Charlie.
Comforted him. Took him from his crib. Claire's own mother,
here to care for them.
Ever so softly, with a lifetime's worth of gentleness, Claire pressed
Emily's eyelids shut. She kept her hand in place for long minutes.
Beneath her finngers, she felt Emily's brow, the tickle of her eyelashes, the
tender perfection of her eyelids, the softness of her eyebrows. Emily's
eyebrows were darker than her hair, and Claire's mother had predicted
that Emily's hair would turn dark as she grew older. Now they would
never know. Claire tried to collect within her hand a generation of
caresses, from the moment of Emily's birth to the point far in the future,
past Claire's own death, that should have been the natural course of
Emily's life. Emily's skin was still warm beneath Claire's palm.
Seven and a half years ago. Like yesterday. A cliché that was always
true. Claire picked up the chart from the end of the hospital bed and
read the history of the man lying helpless before her. Edward R. Reese
Jr. Age: 37. Height: 5'11". Weight: 175. Marital status: Married. Two
children. Address: 1020 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. Profession: Banker.
Claire shuddered. He was only one year older than she was. She
imagined him holding his children on his lap to read them a story at
bedtime, the way she held Emily and Charlie. She saw him advising
clients in a wood paneled office.
He began to breathe in quick, choked gasps, as if the air were a
knife cutting his lungs.
Claire read on. Fever upon arrival at the Presbyterian Hospital on
Monday, December 8: 104.1. Fever upon transfer to the Rockefeller
Institute: 106.04. Bacterial level in his blood at 7 AM on December 10: 100
per milliliter. Claire didn't know what that meant but assumed it was
high. He'd been treated with two types of sulfa drugs, sulfadiazine
and sulfapyridine. Neither had worked. He'd had three transfusions to
try to clear the bacteria from his blood, to no avail. The infection had
entered his bloodstream from a skin abrasion at the right knee. There
were six abscesses in his right leg. His lungs were affected. Diagnosis:
Staphylococcal septicemia.
Blood poisoning. Emily had died of blood poisoning.
In one gliding motion, a stately, straight-backed nurse took the
chart from Claire's hand and reattached it to the end of the bed. Chief
Nurse Brockett, her identification badge read. Beneath her regulation
cap, her steel gray hair was pulled into a bun. Her aloof severity
reminded Claire of her high school headmistress, the type of woman
who could intimidate with a glance.
"You may not read the chart." Nurse Brockett enunciated each
word with precision, as if she suspected that English were not Claire's
native language.
"That's fine." Claire pushed her memories of her daughter out of
her mind and attacked the problem at hand. Nurse Brockett. Well,
Claire wasn't subject to this hierarchy, and Nurse Brockett didn't intimidate her. Through her years of work she'd learned to agree with
everyone in charge and then, when their attention was diverted, do
exactly what she needed to do to get the story. Bravado was a trait
Claire put on each morning with her silk blouse and tailored trousers.
Her boss had sent her here to follow the testing of a potentially revolutionary
medication, but already Claire knew that the real story, the one
with emotion and power, was about saving the life of Edward Reese.
To establish her prerogatives, Claire took her equipment bags to a
narrow table against the wall on the far side of the room. The table
held a blue-patterned porcelain vase filled with white, billowy
hot-house roses. Claire placed the vase on the floor. Sensing the nurse's
glare at her back, she slowed her movements, staking her claim. She
took off her jacket, folded it, and stashed it beneath the table. When
Claire heard the nurse's footsteps leaving the room, she felt relieved:
first skirmish won. She arranged her cameras and film on the table for
easy access. In her notebook, she wrote down the details about Edward
Reese. She checked the picture count on the cameras and sketched out
rough captions. Claire was working alone today, without a reporter
to take formal caption notes and help with the equipment. Ever since
the attack on Pearl Harbor several days before, the office had been topsy-turvy.
This assignment had come in unexpectedly, and with
staff heading to Washington and Hawaii, editorial had no reporters to
spare. Just as well. Claire preferred to work alone, without a reporter's
interference.
When Claire finished what she thought of as her housekeeping
chores, she looked around and was surprised to find herself alone with
Edward Reese. His eyes had settled on her. She felt self-conscious
and wanted to say to him, don't worry, I'll do you proud. Meeting his
gaze, she said nothing, but it was the vow she made to herself. With
her light meter in hand, she toured the room, taking sample readings
and orienting herself. Luckily the room was bright. She wouldn't need
artificial light or a tripod, at least not yet.
The setup here was a little strange for a hospital. She glanced at
Reese, who continued to watch her. She wondered if he'd noticed the
oddness. The spacious, high-ceilinged room looked like the reception
area of a private club, with floor to ceiling windows facing the river
and an arrangement of leather chairs and a sofa. Brilliantly colored,
semi-abstract seascapes decorated the walls, no doubt loans from Mrs.
John D. Rockefeller Jr., who collected modern art. Sunlight reflecting
from the river shimmered and trembled upon the walls and ceiling, as
if the hospital room were an extension of the paintings.
"Claire Shipley?"
Claire turned. A doctor in an unbuttoned white coat stood before
her. He was about six feet tall, lean, with brown hair brushed back,
and steel rimmed glasses. He wore a conservative tie, buttoned down
oxford shirt, and a dark suit beneath the white coat. A stethoscope was
draped around his neck. He held a clipboard and a three ring binder.
He was in his late thirties, Claire judged from the lines around his
eyes. His face had an open, boyish handsomeness, yet the hard set
of his shoulders revealed his disapproval. Nurse Brockett stood like a
sentinel behind him. In the light from the river, the doctor's eyes were
deep blue. At five foot eight, Claire could almost look him in the eye,
an advantage.
"I'm Dr. Stanton. The physician in charge of this case." As Claire
evaluated him, he evaluated her, and he was surprised. She was attractive.
A professional woman who paid attention to herself. He appreciated
hat. She wore red lipstick. Her clothes, clearly designed to be
comfortable for her work, nonetheless showed off her figure.
Claire understood his look and gave him time to indulge it. She
needed Dr. Stanton, because now her narrative had two protagonists:
the man dying on the bed, and this doctor, who might, or might not,
save his life.
"Would you kindly step outside?" he said.
"Happy to." As she followed him into the hallway, she sensed
Reese studying them. Dr. Stanton walked with a certain insouciance,
or maybe simply absolute confidence. Of course the confidence could
be a veneer forced upon him by his position. Whichever, Claire found
it stirring. The bottom of his white coat flicked backward with each
step. He turned to her when they were several yards down the hall.
"Dr. Rivers told me you'd be working here today." Dr. Rivers was
the director of the hospital. He was the one who'd contacted her editor
about the story, following up on a casual conversation they'd had over
lunch at one of their clubs. "Frankly it wasn't my idea to invite you, but
he's the one in charge. We don't have time for you, and we won't be
making allowances for you. I'd advise you to stay out of our way."
"Good. I'm hoping to stay out of your way, too. I'm hoping you'll
forget about me completely."
Frowning, James Stanton appeared at a loss for a response. Nothing
like agreement to diffuse an argument, Claire had learned long ago.
By necessity, she was an expert in the manipulation of her assigned
subjects. Stanton stared at her, and she stared back.
"Maybe you should tell me what you're dealing with here. So I can
work harder at staying out of your way," Claire added with a flirtatious
touch of irony.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer Copyright © 2011 by Lauren Belfer. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Nancy Horan

“A FIERCE RADIANCE shines with fascinating detail about a moment in American history we have mostly forgotten, when penicillin was new, miraculous, and in short supply. Belfer’s powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read.”

Customer Reviews

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Fierce Radiance 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
alisons-bookmarks More than 1 year ago
A front-runner for my #1 book of 2010!! A Fierce Radiance is an extraordinary novel which comes along once every few years. I absolutely fell in love with this book and can't stop talking about it!! A Fierce Radiance is set in the early 1940s during the first days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The story follows the life of Claire Shipley, a beautiful and talented photojournalist for Life magazine, whose boss sends her to cover the testing of a potentially revolutionary new medicine made from green mold - penicillin. She is responsible for capturing the iconic images Americans look forward to seeing in Life Magazine. Living in New York City, Claire is a single mother to an 8 year old boy, Charlie. She lost her daughter, Emily, when she was only seven, from a scrape on the knee resulting in a blood infection. Emily's life would have been saved by penicillin. In 1941, the United States had just entered WWII, and "our boys" are dying on and off the battlefield from infection. The government pleads with the seven largest pharmaceutical companies to make penicillin their top priority. In the midst of this war-time drama, two people are brought together, fall in love, and are thrust into blackmail, espionage and murder, all of which revolve around the potential for mass production of a new blockbuster drug. Penicillin - the weapon of war. The words leaped off the page and came to life for me. Belfer's engaging writing transported me to war-time New York, the 1940s, an era that I'm already a bit obsessed with, and she got everything right. I feel like I'm describing a movie when I tell you the dialogue is engaging and fast-paced, the costumes are stunning, and the scenery is perfection. It may sound silly, but I loved that Belfer described all the women's clothes, hair and make-up. She was descriptive without taking away from the action and helped me to become even more absorbed into this important time in the world's history. I have read an abundance of books that have World War II as their back-drop, but this was my first perspective of the war from this angle. I also live in New Jersey, the home of several of the actual pharmaceutical companies mentioned in the novel, which gave me a whole new look at an industry of which I am already very familiar. There is so much on-the-edge-of-your-seat drama in this race to the finish. Which company will be first in discovering how to mass produce penicillin? Will they share their discovery for the good of the country? Will they be able to do it in time to save our soldiers? Will they be able to do it in time to save our children? How far are people willing to go to keep or steal secrets? This compelling novel was about loss, fear, hope, tragedy, war, suffering, government, corruption, fortune, greed and victory. For me, it was a love story. Claire Shipley meets Dr. James Stanton, a handsome doctor at The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and what follows is the kind of love story they make movies about. TO read more, visit my book blog: Alison's Book Marks (enter contest for a SIGNED book)
MattCH More than 1 year ago
A Fierce Radiance is an exciting piece of historical fiction where historical figures interact with fictional characters to tell a fast moving story of the meeting of industry, medicine, romance, family, and loss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't think a story surrounding the WW2 development of antibiotics would hold anything beyond historical interest, but this narrative is absolutely riveting. It has everything: espionage, family, high finance, intrigue, love, medicine, mystery, Nazis, romance, sex. This novel also holds frightening relevance to the present, as the entire category of miracle drugs its story revolves around are now beginning to lose their effectiveness.
AnnaPavlova More than 1 year ago
Lauren Belfer manages to combine wit, charm, romance, and rich historical atmosphere in this marvelous novel about war-time New York City. Most novels do not reach the level of true literature, but A Fierce Radiance DOES. Belfer is a gem of a writer and reading this book will engage you in ways that you have not imagined.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjyed this book. Ms. Belfer uses language to capture the reader. I could feel the snow and see the buildings. Those of us who live in New York City will feel right at home in these pages. However, I was unsatisfied with the ending. I felt like I was watching a watered down version of Casablanca. The medical aspect was also left me unsatisfied
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like fiction that also contains a lot of factual historical information. This book is a good example of that. I knew that penicillin was discovered long before it was available as a practical medication but found the facts about its development and the government involvement during WWII fascinating.
Didge86 More than 1 year ago
The story of penicillin is so interesting and this book really brought it to life. However, I had a hard time understanding some of the motivations of the characters. With that said, I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction.
BeadQueen More than 1 year ago
I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I loved the subject. It was so heartbreaking how medical profession had to deal with the drug. With that being said - even though I really liked the story - I hated all the jumping around in time. I just felt the gaps in the characters' lives was really affecting the quality of the story. I still recommend this tale though!
teacher47 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. The plot was engaging, but at times events were disconnected until the end. I found the history of penicillin to be very interesting. The ending was not predictable, but not disappointing.
timetravel More than 1 year ago
A Fierce Radiance crosses genres as a historical novel, a love story, a crime thriller, and a murder mystery. It captured my attention from the very beginning and held it throughout. Claire Shipley is a fascinating character as a photo journalist dealing with situations in her job, her family, and her relationships. Claire is assigned to a local hospital to report on a still experimental drug, penicillin, but her interest was more than professional. Penicillin could have saved the life of the daughter she lost to an infection. Through her work she also meets her love interest, Dr. James Stanton. The author brings to life the promise and heartache of experimental drugs. Problems arise when they cannot create the drugs quickly enough to give the patient a complete series, and some of the drugs have unexpected side effects. Competition among drug companies, the Federal Government, and greedy business men round out this superb crime drama. I am very impressed with the author's depiction of a mother living with the grief of losing a child. In A Fierce Radiance, Lauren Belfer captured this aspect of Claire's life perfectly. I've read other books that do not come close to portraying this appropriately. All of the characters and their roles are clearly defined and developed. Claire is not always likeable, but she is always interesting.
pak6th on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Claire Shipley is a photographer on assignment for Life magazine in 1941, photographing the story of a new drug and how it might save lives, especially those of wounded soldiers and sailors. The drug is called penicillin and when her story is killed by publisher Henry Luce Claire wants to know why. Then a young researcher is killed and her notes on similar drugs are missing. But no one seems to be too interested in finding her killer. Does war force a different kind of morality on all of us? That is the question as we follow Claire through the next few years, her assignments, her relationships with her son, her ex-husband and her father, and with the heads of the research projects discovering the drugs, which are classified as "weapons of war."
Tmtrvlr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Fierce Radiance crosses genres as a historical novel, a love story, a crime thriller, and a murder mystery. It captured my attention from the very beginning and held it throughout. Claire Shipley is a fascinating character as a photo journalist dealing with situations in her job, her family, and her relationships. Claire is assigned to a local hospital to report on a still experimental drug, penicillin, but her interest was more than professional. Penicillin could have saved the life of the daughter she lost to an infection. Through her work she also meets her love interest, Dr. James Stanton. The author brings to life the promise and heartache of experimental drugs. Problems arise when they cannot create the drugs quickly enough to give the patient a complete series, and some of the drugs have unexpected side effects. Competition among drug companies, the Federal Government, and greedy business men round out this superb crime drama. I am very impressed with the author¿s depiction of a mother living with the grief of losing a child. In A Fierce Radiance, Lauren Belfer captured this aspect of Claire¿s life perfectly. I¿ve read other books that do not come close to portraying this appropriately. All of the characters and their roles are clearly defined and developed. Claire is not always likeable, but she is always interesting.
wolffamily on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story based on the production of penicillin during WWII
mlanzotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terrific plot, great historical background,thought provoking
myoldkyhome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. Set in the early part of World War II. It's easy to be swept into the world of single mom, Claire Shipley during a time when it was uncommon for a woman to be divorced. She's an ambitious photographer for Life magazine who doesn't take no as an answer as she chases stories about the beginnings of the use of antibiotics during an age when people die from scratches to their knees. Claire's work crosses over into her everyday life taking the reading on an interesting journey.Author Lauren Belfer has done her research on the era and that coupled with her immense talent makes for compelling reading.
caitemaire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most of us alive today can not remember a time when a small cut, a simple fall could be a death sentence, when a soar throat could turn septic, a case of pneumonia would leave a classmate's desk empty forever.A time before penicillin.It is just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Claire Shipley, a staff photographer for Life magazine, is sent to New York's Rockefeller Institute to document the trials of a new experimental drug. But Claire's interest is more than professional, having lost her own 3 year old daughter to blood poisoning eight years before. Her own daughter is gone but Clair knows how many more might be saved if only a way can be found to produce this penicillin in sufficient quantities.Once the government realized the success of the trials, they also realize what the production of this drug to treat injured troops could mean to the war effort. Just as most of us do not remember a time before antibiotics, most of us also do not remember a time when many Americans though the Allies might lose the war and a time when the residents of NYC thought invasion was a real possibility. Penicillin could be a weapon that would change the outcome of the war, which at the moment was looking pretty grim. The stakes are huge..power, money, the very outcome of the war. There is a suspicious death that strikes close to home, espionage and, on a more personal level, Claire's new romance with Dr. Stanton, to round out this epic story.A Fierce Radiance is an historical novel, a thriller and a romance...and it succeeds in each to varying degrees.I am not usually a fan of historical novels, but this book is an exception. I think Belfer is very successful in recreating the WWII era, the mood, the fears, the shortages, the life in new York in the midst of World war II. Surprising, the whole issue of the development of penicillin is by far the most interesting part of the book and without question the story is at it's strongest when that subject is at the center.As a thriller, the book is fairly successful. I am a great fan of mysteries and this was a pretty good one, with an interesting police detective, enough red herrings, spies and corporate intrigue to keep me interested.But for me, the weakest link of the book was the romance between Claire and the good Doctor Jamie. Part of the problem was that I just didn't like him, from the moment, in the earliest pages of the book, when he seems to be spending more time considering how he will get Claire into his bed than tending to the dying man in front of him. Add in a few moral lapses, a dose of amnesia and a number of unexplained stupid decisions and I was not very vested in this romance.Overall, for me, A Fierce Radiance is good book than fell just short of being an excellent book by trying to keep just one too many plates in the air at the same time. It seems just a little confused about what kind of book it is and maybe, in trying to be too many things, falls just a little short. This book is at it's best when it zones in on the real history surrounding the development of penicillin and the changed world that discovery created. When that is at the heart of the story, it is a very entertaining book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will recommend to everyone. Very, very well researched and written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heard an enthusiastic review of this book on NPR. SO disappointed. The author seems unable to decide if she wants to write a romance novel or a good strong mystery. Lightweight and not very engaging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good to very-good. I enjoyed the story and the details were rich and well documented. The story plodded and I like my novels to move. I had a hard timing figuring out the point of the story, which of course was only revealed near the end. The ending left me feeling hopeful and a few other things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good read.  I enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Superbly written with facinating blend of characters, period, medicine,social classes - I looked at the length and thought no way could a book that long be this good but kept me enthralled from start to finish
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author writes history and fiction together to make a story I wanted to read to see what would happen next. I would recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story begins on December 10, 1941 as magazine photographer Claire Shipley prepares to observe and document the first use of penicillin on a human subject. The patient is dying of blood poisoning due to a small cut from a simple fall, a fact that brings back searing memories of Claire's own loss. A drug we take for granted is in its infancy - no one knows how much or how often to administer it, and the supplies are painfully small due the difficulties in its production. The well written story includes victims of disease and victims of corporate conflicts, dedicated medical professionals, and a touching love story. This plus a few surprises makes this a great summertime read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All young scientists go to "science" result one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago