Customer Reviews for

A Fierce Radiance

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

One of the best of 2010!

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 day...
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)

posted by alisons-bookmarks on June 18, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Interesting Historical Fiction

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.

posted by Didge86 on June 10, 2011

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  • Posted June 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    One of the best of 2010!

    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)

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Engaging Historical Fiction

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2010

    totally absorbing book

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    completely engrossing from the very first page

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2010

    A good read, until the last chapter

    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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    A Fierce Radiance

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    A really good read!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Outstanding

    Very unusual, great narrative and history. City of Light is one of my all time favorites as well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2011

    Interesting Historical Fiction

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 5, 2011

    Very Interesting!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is an interesting look at historical industrial espionage and murder during WWII

    In Manhattans, Life Magazine sends photographer thirty something Claire Shipley to cover the report that medical scientists have developed an elixir from mold that looks like it will help with diseases. The single mom who lost her daughter years ago due to an infection/poison in her blood is exhilarated with what she hears at the briefing.

    Dr. James Stanton who heads the research is attracted to Claire; she reciprocates and soon they are engaged. As Pearl Harbor draws the United States into the war, the pharmaceutical giants want to control mass production of penicillin. At the same time James' sister mycologist Tia searches for relatives of penicillin, but something with promise vanishes from her lab. The Feds with publisher Henry Luce cooperating use Claire to help with their inquiry while her financier father wants control of the new industry. James, who was overseas helping with the deploying of penicillin, comes home believing that his future father-in-law had his sister murdered and her former boyfriend stole the promising antitoxin cousin from Tia.

    This is an interesting look at historical industrial espionage and murder during WWII. The story line effortlessly moves back and forth between New York City boardrooms, labs and battlefield medicine. Adding to the sense of being at the forefront of the antibiotic revolution is Life magazine photo ops (through Claire's camera lens). Although the personal relationships add depth to the lead couple, their estrangement and romance slows down an otherwise electrifying deep look back at a wild medical frontier.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Highly recommended

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2014

    READ

    All young scientists go to "science" result one.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Disappointing for me. Maybe ok for you

    I really expected to love this book. Historical info was interesting but wrapped in story of one dimensional characters who i found unsympathetic.

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  • Posted April 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Race to Produce Penicillin

    "A Fierce Radiance" by Lau­ren Belfer is a historical fiction book about the search for penicillin. The push came during World War II when the need for this miracle drug became as important as any weapon.

    Claire Shipley, a single mother and a photojournalist working for Life magazine gets a new assignment, to document an experiment doctors are doing on a patient in New York's Rockefeller Institute. Luckily for Claire, handsome doctor Jamie Stan­ton is on hand. Not so lucky is the patient.

    Not enough penicillin is yet avail­able to treat a patient all the way to a healthy life.

    As the romance between Claire & Jamie heats up, the race to produce penicillin goes into over­drive. An uneasy alliance between a government at war and private drug companies is forged - all for the common good (supposedly). The government wants the drug companies to stay focused on penicillin, they want to make a profit.
    Some­one is going to have to give.

    A Fierce Radiance" by Lauren Belfer is a well written book which is compelling and interesting. There are spies, sex, big money, scrupu­lous industrialists, incorruptible scientist as well as corruptible ones. The book is suppose to me a mystery, but the real mystery is how Ms. Belfer succeeded in making a book about penicillin so interesting.

    Ms. Belfer tells us that on "D-Day, in June 1944, every medic going ashore in France carried penicillin in his pack". That is an amazing achievement if you think about it. Before the abil­ity to tame penicillin one could day from getting scratched by a thorn - life was that fragile.

    I purposely used the word "tame" because penicillin's healing power has been known for ages, but only a Scottish scientist named Alexander Fleming is known for actually pinpointing, or discovering, the antibiotic.

    This book is historical fiction at its best. The storytelling is smooth and focused. Many historical figure make appearances, even though none of them are actually the center of the tale. The race to produce penicillin is described in a fascinating way and best of all, I learned some­thing.

    The ability to mass produce penicillin literally changed the world overnight. No longer does a parent fear that their child will die from scarlet fever, pneumonia or even a trivial scratch gotten during play.

    There is a murder somewhere in there, but the quest for peni­cillin is so engrossing that the mystery is almost a disruption. This digression, in my opinion, is actually the weakest part of this graceful book. However, the descriptions of war time New York more then makes up for that.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2010

    Loved it!

    I loved this book. It just got better the further into the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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