Review: A FIERCE RADIANCE
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Previously, I reviewed Lauren Belfer's debut novel City of Light, and liked it immensely because of its strong female main character. Her new novel, A FIERCE RADIANCE, comes out on the 15th of next month. Again this author delivers a character who will resonate with her readers: the charismatic Claire Shipley, a beautiful and talented photo-journalist for Life magazine during World War II.
She stumbles into the greatest story of her career when she is assigned to take pictures of the scientists at the Rockefeller Institute, working against time to develop life-saving antibiotics. This plot struck a personal note for my family: during the war, my parents' first baby died of an infection as their similarly sick cocker spaniel was saved by an experimental drug available only for animals--possibly streptomycin. In Belfer's book, the drug is penicillin. She, too, had lost a daughter to an infection from a minor scratch in the pre-antibiotics years.
Belfer’s historical exploration of the origins of these life-saving drugs, whose efficacy has since been reduced through over-prescription and the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, echoes in today’s heated debates over antibiotic use.
A FIERCE RADIANCE is a thriller, a love story, a family saga, and a portrait of war-time New York. It depicts the tumultuous early days of World War II, when many feared that America would lose the war and they clung fiercely to their loved ones, because no one could predict what tomorrow would bring. It was a very different lifetime in America and Belfer offers a glimpse into it, a way of life that fewer and fewer of us experienced.