Book Review: A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer

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I got this book for free as part of the TLC Book Tour pro­mo­tion.
The pub­lisher has made avail­able one (1) copy of “A Fierce Radi­ance” to be given out– enter at the end of the post.

My rat­ing for A Fierce Radi­ance — 5

“A Fierce Radi­ance” by Lau­ren Belfer (web­site) 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.

  • 532 pages
  • Pub­lisher: Harper
  • ISBN: 0061252514

Pur­chase “A Fierce Radi­ance" through the ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
Ama­zon |Book Depos­i­tory US | Book Depos­i­tory UK

“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.

So tell me: Do you think the gov­ern­ment has the right to force pri­vate indus­try to work on its projects with no abil­ity to patent their discoveries?

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.

Pur­chase “A Fierce Radi­ance" through the ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
Ama­zon |Book Depos­i­tory US | Book Depos­i­tory UK



  • Con­test is for one (1) new copy of “A Fierce Radi­ance”.
  • There will be ONE (1) WINNER
  • Must be a US / Canada mail­ing Address
  • Ends Thurs­day April 21, 2011
  • Win­ners will be cho­sen using
  • Win­ners will have 24 hours after my ini­tial con­tact to write back their mail­ing address, oth­er­wise alter­nate win­ners will be picked

Con­grat­u­la­tions: knittingandsundries@
TLC Book Tour for “A Fierce Radiance”:

Tues­day, March 29th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tues­day, March 29th: Bookworm’s Din­ner (guest post)
Thurs­day, March 31st: Rund­pinne
Wednes­day, April 6th: Bib­lio­phil­iac
Mon­day, April 11th: That’s What She Read
Tues­day, April 12th: Books Like Breath­ing
Wednes­day, April 13th: In the Next Room
Thurs­day, April 14th: Man of La Book
Mon­day, April 18th: Book­ish Ruth
Mon­day, April 18th: Unabridged Chick
Tues­day, April 19th: Teresa’s Read­ing Cor­ner
Wednes­day, April 20th: Blog­gin’ ‘Bout Books
Thurs­day, April 21st: Debbie’s Book Bag
Mon­day, April 25th: Laura’s Reviews
Zohar — Man of la Book

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