A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer
Publication Date: March 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 560pp
(Received for review from TLC Tours)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Lauren Belfer on the WEB: Website, Facebook, Twitter
Excerpt from A Fierce Radiance
Reading Group Guide
Synopsis (Book Blurb):
In the anxious days after Pearl Harbor, Life photojournalist Claire Shipley finds herself covering one of the nation's most important stories. At New York City's renowned Rockefeller Institute, researchers are racing to save thousands of wounded American soliders and countless others by developing a miraculous new drug they call penicillin. For Claire, a single mother haunted by the loss of her young daughter - a death the miracle drug could have prevented - the story is cuttingly personal, especially after she unexpectedly begins to fall in love with the shy and brilliant head physician, James Stanton. But Claire isn't the only one interested in the secret cure. When a researcher dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes become starkly clear: someone understands just how profitable the new drug could be - and will stop at nothing to get it. Now, with lives and a new love hanging in the balance, Claire will throw herself into harm's way to find a killer - no matter what price she may have to pay.
Author Lauren Belfer combines medical and military history together with romance and mystery to create a novel that readers will not soon forget. A Fierce Radiance is a glimpse back in time to the days after Pearl Harbor, when life hung in the balance for many soldiers and citizens. This book centers around the amazing, miracle drug, penicillin and how it changed the face of medicine. Readers will love the Belfer's engaging style and believable characters. It has adventure and romance all rolled up into one great novel!
Claire Shipley a photojournalist for Life magazine is onto the story of a lifetime. As the United States enters World War II, after Pearl Harbor, the race to mass produce antibiotics like Penicillin and it's "cousin" drugs heats up. Claire is assigned to photograph the first human trials on the drug being developed at the Rockefeller Institute. Claire's emotions run high as she realizes this drug could have potentially prevented the death of her daughter, who died of blood poisoning. As a single mother raising a young son, romance wasn't in her plans, but she finds herself drawn to James Stanton, head physician on the Penicillin project. When Jamie's sister Tia, a researcher on the project mysteriously ends up dead, it becomes apparent that other people know how profitable these drugs will be. When Claire begins to suspect her father may have something to do with this, the mystery and romance suddenly heat up.
Lauren Belfer's first book City of Light made her an instant sensation. Her second book, A Fierce of Radiance will likely cement her as one of the great writers of historical fiction. Belfer's portrayal of New York City during World War II is both harrowing and compelling. Her characters are full of spirit and determination as they are involved in something that will change not only their own lives, but history. But, as with all great things, there is a price. The author delves into the subject of industrialism and medicine. Is is ethical to seek profit from medical discoveries? Readers will be amazed at the ruthlessness that surrounded the production of the life-saving drug penicillin. Belfer does a remarkable job of making this time period come alive, with the stark reality that profit can sometimes outweigh good judgment.
Claire Shipley is a great character. She is a bit unconventional for her time. A single mother, a recent divorcee and a woman with a career. Her determination and plucky spirit ring true. She is very believable and authentic. She's a thirty-six year old woman, who has been through a lot in her life, the death of her daughter from blood poisoning, raising her young son, Charlie on her own and dealing with a messy divorce. When she meets Jamie, it is like a breath of fresh air in her life. She is the kind of woman and character who deserves for something really good to happen in her life and this romance has that potential. But, it is also fraught with it's own problems. Jamie is shy and very gifted. He is wrapped up in his work and can't see past it sometimes. On top of that Claire is just started to foster a relationship with her father, who is a very ruthless businessman. It would definitely be hard to contemplate a relationship with a man, when your father could have ordered the death of his sister... I think readers will love Claire and root for her romance with Jamie. I think they will sympathize with her over the death of her child and feel the exhilaration with her at the prospect of being a part of something so much bigger than herself. Belfer did such a wonderful job of creating Claire and giving the reader a chance to know her.
There are several things going on in this book and Belfer seems to be very adept at making them all come together to create a great story. You have the romance between Claire and Jamie, the shaky relationship between Claire and her father, against the background of an exploding medical discovery that shows the ruthlessness of drug companies and the extent they will go to, to make a profit. The scientific aspects, as well as the historical aspects of this book are just phenomenal. I loved reading about how penicillin was developed and I honestly had no idea before reading this book that there was such a controversy over it's production. Belfer's descriptive style really enhanced this story and made something that sounds kind of boring on paper, into a great adventure story. I loved it!
I can't recommend this one enough to historical fiction fans. This one will also appeal to mystery fans as well, as Claire races against time to find out who killed Tia and how it all ties into the story. Romance fans will love the scorching heat between Jamie and Claire and those who love stories about families will be intrigued by Claire's relationship with her dad. There is something for just about every kind of reader in this one!
A Fierce Radiance is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Lauren Belfer is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, City of Light, a number one Book Sense pick, a Discover award nominee, and a New York Times Notable Book. Her fiction has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. She lives in New York City.