Book Review: A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer

April 14, 2011


“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

The pub­lisher has made avail­able one (1) copy of “A Fierce Radiance” to be given out– enter at the end of the post.

Buy A Fierce Radiance from*My rating for A Fierce Radiance5
Buy A Fierce Radiance from*
More Books by Lauren Belfer*


“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.

Buy A Fierce Radiance from*
More Books by Lauren Belfer*



  • 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
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer


  • bookspersonallyApril 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Sounds like a fascinating story, I am intrigued that the author could make a book about penicillin so interesting!

  • LeslieApril 15, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Sounds like my kind of book. I seem to gravitate towards the science-based fiction like the books of Michael Crichton and Robin Cook.

    • zoharApril 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Thanks for the comment Leslie, you’d love this one then.

  • AthsApril 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I have this book on my shelf, but had no idea of what it was about except for the period in which it was set. This is interesting – something like penicillin make for such fascinating reading in such a huge book? I can’t wait to read it!

    • zoharApril 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

      Hey Aths, let me know how you like it.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursApril 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    “the real mys­tery is how Ms. Belfer suc­ceeded in mak­ing a book about peni­cillin so interesting” – see, now THAT is what I like to hear! I’m a huge fan of “disease” books but finding one that combines good storytelling, a compelling fictional plot, and interesting non-fiction facts is not easy.

    Thanks for being on this tour. I’ll definitely be getting myself a copy of this book!

  • Michelle @ The True Book AddictApril 18, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Another great book…sounds really good! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Julie @ Knitting and SundriesApril 18, 2011 at 9:41 am

    OK … color me weird, but this gave me a giggle: “the real mys­tery is how Ms. Belfer suc­ceeded in mak­ing a book about peni­cillin so interesting.”

    As for your question, it depends on the circumstances. If the people working are actually employed by the government (receiving salary, etc.), I would think that the patent rights, etc. go to their employer.

    However, if you are a private citizen in a democracy, then, no, of course you should have the right to patent the results of your own work.

    The thing that I love about most historical fiction is that even in a fictionalized version, you actually learn a few things about that time, about key figures, about social mores. I’m a walking repository of useless knowledge. 🙂

    • zoharApril 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Julie, I believe the same thing was done with synthetic rubber (it was a really big problem for spare tires with all the vehicles being made during WWII). The car companies came together to create it and then shared the patent.

  • Julie @ Knitting and SundriesApril 22, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to reading this one!

  • rhondaOctober 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    My type of book history. And science.thanks for giveaway.

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