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Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout
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Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,427 ratings  ·  436 reviews
In 1891, 24 year old Marie, née Marya Sklodowska, moved from Warsaw to Paris, where she found work in the laboratory of Pierre Curie, a scientist engaged in research on heat and magnetism. They fell in love. They took their honeymoon on bicycles. They expanded the periodic table, discovering two new elements with startling properties, radium and polonium. They recognized r...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by It Books (first published November 1st 2010)
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Ken-ichi
This is an illustrated biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and an impressionistic exploration of the marks their pioneering research left on the world. As history, I thought it was great. Extensive reliance on primary sources, juxtaposition of the past (Marie's letters, a Russian map of Chernobyl) and the present (a phone interview with a nuclear security expert, collages by a survivor of Hiroshima), and a thorough list of annotated citations all made for a compelling, believable experience. As...more
Courtney Johnston
It seems absurd to try to talk about this book without you being able to see it. It is easy enough to describe the story Lauren Redniss tells in this graphic biography, but hard to describe the emotional colour her images bring to her words.

The details of Marie Sklodowksa and Pierre Curie's joint biographies are reasonably familiar to readers of science history - his early scientific talent and her struggle to get a scientific education; their romance and marriage; their separate and joint rese...more
Alicen
Aug 04, 2011 Alicen added it
Shelves: recommended
I loved this book for the sheer fact that when I put it down the other night and turned off the lights it GLOWED. A beautiful book in its genre-bending (is it a biography? A graph novel?) that I highly recommend (although I will note for those who know a lot about Marie Curie's life already it might be a tad boring).
Hannah  Messler
I thought this book was just so lovely. The illustrations are amoeba-y--grave and slender--elegant creepy jellicle elegies for the Curies. I like the text, too--the font is sick and the syntax is precise and gentle, like little wooden pieces that fit together with barely audible clicks.

Linda Robinson
As a total art design project, the book is stellar. Using cyanotype prints is brilliant, the bluish glow irresistible; mesmerizing the enthralled reader like a 50s illusionist until one wonders if a CT Scan needs scheduling. Redniss designed the type (Eusapia LR, named for Eusapia Palladino, a spiritualist, whose seances the Curies attended), and it fits the radioactive subject matter. Reverse white type on a dark background is hard to read; and the orange pages are close to impossible, but perh...more
Carl
I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked this book up from the library. I just knew it was recommended highly by others, and as a scientist I was interested in the topic of the Curie's and radioactivity.

My first clue that I was in for something quite different was the size of the book–it was 8.5 x 11. When I opened it I was even more surprised. There were no white pages with black print text, except for an occasional one which was very different from the traditional ones. Instead ther...more
Jasmine
Jan 12, 2011 Jasmine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: n-a
okay this is my last review before I go on vacation. [yay!!!] and since I have no intention of talking to any of you while I'm on vacation [nothing personal I'm just not bringing my computer or talking to anyone who isn't my best friend] I better make it good.

This book is perfectly fine. I is not worth the run on it that occurred, but I get why it didn't end up on back order like so many of the others and we got it in again pretty quick. it's nothing to write home about.

BUT do not for a second...more
Kurt
Here's the short form. Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout is a biography of Marie Curie. That is roughly accurate and thoroughly uninteresting. In addition to being beautiful and beautifully told, this book is the story of Marie Curie, of her discoveries of radium and polonium, and of the legacies of them all.

Redniss begins her first chapter, Symmetry, cleverly and counter-intutively. On the left hand page is information about Pierre Curie, whom, we can pretty safely...more
K
This was my first graphic novel (well, not really a novel -- graphic work of non-fiction? too long), and I think the medium may just not be for me. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be "distracting."

I was distracted by everything, particularly the pictures and the artistic but annoying-to-read font. The narrative itself was distracting, jumping around in time and space even though it all connected back to radioactivity. A more tolerant reader might have appreciated the...more
Lara
My husband gave this to me as an early Valentine's Day gift because he heard about it on NPR and knows me really well--I mean, how could I resist an art book that combines history, science and a love story? That GLOWS IN THE DARK? So yeah, it was an excellent gift.

This is basically the story of Marie and Pierre Curie--their marriage and their work, and the things that came out of both aspects of their relationship. The narrative moves back and forth through history from the late 1800s/early 190...more
Jason Stats
This book is exceptionally beautiful, from its writing to its artwork to its layout, and deserves six stars. The story of Marie Curie's research and lovers is highly compelling and masterfully interwoven from culled diary and lab note entries. One paramour, Paul Langevin, turns out to have a fascinating biography, having scaled the Eiffel Tower, challenged multiple journalists to duels over their publicizing his affair with Curie, and was the first French professor to be arrested by the Nazis. I...more
Amanda
This was a strange and intriguing book. I'm not sure if I've read anything like it...the closest I can compare it to would be the Griffin & Sabine books. Radioactive is a dual history of Pierre and Marie Curie's discoveries in radioactivity and the impact those discoveries have made on history, coupled with the personal stories of several characters, with a focus on Marie Curie. I don't think I've thought once about the Curies since I graduated high school (science is not my forte), but I'm...more
Karyn
Apr 12, 2012 Karyn marked it as to-read
Read Maria Popova's review on the Brain Picking website and immediately ordered my own copy. (Uh oh- think my "to-read" list is getting a little out of hand!)

What the periodic table has to do with obscure photographic techniques and Italian erotic séances.

"To stay true to Curie’s spirit and legacy, Redniss rendered her poetic artwork in an early-20th-century image printing process called cyanotype, critical to the discovery of both X-rays and radioactivity itself — a cameraless photographic tech...more
Lindsay Miller
(Reviewer Background: Recently made work using cyanotype process. Recently wrote paper about atomic bomb testing. Rarely reads history or biography. Picked book up on a whim. Possibly compensating for tendencies in self and others to rate high.)

"It was okay" sounds about right.

I respect the author's experimental approach to the non-fiction book format, but some aspects work better than others.

The integration of art adds certain feels, but unevenness of production is a bit distracting for me. Th...more
phaedosia
It's a biography of the Curies but also a work of art. The illustrations tell their own narrative as beautifully as the text. It truly made me care about the Curies and their era in a way that I wouldn't have normally. In addition to the gorgeous pictures, the author includes stories you probably would never had heard anywhere else. For example, she tells about all the young women in New Jersey who were hired to paint watch dials with the "undark" paint that was made from radium, who subsequentl...more
Louise
Besides researching and writing this book, the author designed its type and created its art work. She used paper coated with light sensitive materials, imaging which was critical to the discovery of X-Rays and radiology. Lauren Redniss well deserves the National Book Award nomination for her writing and for her bibliographic art.

The book has the feel of its content. The use of color illustration and positioning of type on the page evoke the images of radiation both good and the bad. The story is...more
Mark
I had heard the name Marie Curie, but I did not know much about this pioneering scientist. Wow, what an eye-opener. She was born in Poland in 1867 and moved to Paris in 1891, to study science at the University of Paris. A couple years later, she meets Pierre Curie, an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry. They soon marry and begin blazing a path, that will bring both wonder to the world and incredible destruction.
This all will launch, with their discovery of polonium and radium, whi...more
Korri
Considering that the last biography I read about Marie Curie was the 1979 ValueTale The Value of Learning: The Tale of Marie Curie, I was looking forward to a more sophisticated book.

The illustrations, made by cyanotype printing, seem to cast a glow not dissimilar to radium's 'spontaneous luminosity'. While the making of the images is interesting, the art itself is very simple and feels more like doodles than finished work. The biography starts with the Curies' childhoods and charts their love...more
Sara Latta
"Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie. A Tale of Love and Fallout" (Harper Collins, 2011), by Lauren Redniss, is a fascinating scientific biography of the famous couple and their family. Along with Henri Becquerel, Pierre and Marie were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903 for their pioneering work in radioactivity (Marie herself coined the word "radioactivity"). Marie won a second Nobel Prize in 1911 for her discovery of radium and polonium; in 1935, their daughter and son-in-law, Irene and Frederi...more
Elizabeth
Dec 08, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Nancy
As effusively praised in the New York Times .

HT:http://www.slate.com/id/2280395/, as emailed to me by my mother.


This book glows in the dark! Just like radium!

...Do you think that it has radium in it?


For some reason the title here does not give the proper subtitle: "A Tale of Love and Fallout".

Marie Curie was in what we would now call grad school from 1895-1903 (eight years), and had a baby in 1897 (her third year). In 1903, Marie Curie became the first woman to earn a doctorate in France, and wa...more
Karen
This book is the Big Read choice for UW Madison this year and it is really a great little book. Barely 200 pages, not very long especially when you consider the large amount of illustrations and cyanotype printing (as the author notes, it makes the illustrations glow with the same luster that Curie used to describe radium). I learned a lot about Marie and Pierre Curie and the vast influence their discoveries and research has had on our world - most for the better but some unfortunately for the w...more
sara frances
this book is super cool! i think my favorite thing about it (besides the fact it GLOWS IN THE DARK) is how it shows some of the effects of Marie Curie's work. for example, there is a bit about how the first x-ray and it includes the image (SO COOL)!! Redniss also interviewed a woman who lived through the Hiroshima bombing.

the artwork was pretty hit or miss with me. some of it left me going "what the hell is that suppose to be?!?" but other times it was spot-on and incredibly powerful, especiall...more
Janet
This amazing book by Lauren Redniss is part scrapbook, part art book, part biography of the remarkable Marie Curie,winner of 2 noble prizes. Creative, unique, with a glow in the dark cover, images printed in cyanotype,includes a charcoal rubbing from the curie crypt, diagrams and discussion of Hiroshima, Chernobyl
as well as the Manhattan Project. Difficult for me to rate this book, certainly 5 or more stars for creativity but less for the actual text.
Chelsea
The book was beautiful to look at at but on certain pages the font layout was a bit irritating. Story was the parts that were about Marie were wonderful however the interjections about modern history of radium took away from the flow of the story. It would have been nicer to read if those stories had been told in separate chapters from Marie's personal story. This is more a 3.5 star than a 3. It is really a lovely book.
Holli
Great book. I used it, along with other sources, to prepare for a library presentation on the life of Marie Curie. Especially valuable is the attention Redniss gives to the situations and issues we face as a result of the Curies' work. As Redniss says on her website:

In the century since the Curies began their work, the world has struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. These deb...more
Nancy
A lot is packed into this short book--a decent brief biography of 3 generations of the Curie family, some accessible scientific explanations of radioactivity, artwork on almost every page, and jumps into recent times showing how people are using radioactivity and what they think about it.

The book is a kind of hodge-podge but it works somehow.
Dianne
I loved this book. As a graphic novel, it is appealing on so many different levels. The art, the choice of color, the type set and the glow in the dark cover compliment the language and story of Marie and Pierre Curie. The book is engaging as biography, love story and science journal. I will look forward to reading the next book by Lauren Redniss.
Mesolude
The colours and unique presentation drew me to this book. Reading it was easy, one hour late at night and another in the morning. Given the option, I would read for several more, yet this is unnecessary. Redniss used the amount of pages needed and no more. I appreciate the treatment of Madame Curie as she presents a paradox: the most famous female scientist that most of us few little about. This book shows the life of a scientist and a person, stripping away the appearance of godliness and resto...more
Rachel
Really lovely book—it wasn't really what I expected (was thinking it would be a more classic graphic novel) but truly beautiful. The art is incredible and the way the story skirts through history to get at the Curies' importance: wonderful.
Audacia Ray
Love, science, and radioactivity - what more could you want. Oh, right, ethereal art to go with it. This book is a thing of beauty. I love when a writer/artist is able to bring forth the literary-ness of history.
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Lauren Redniss is the author of Century Girl: 100 years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies and Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for non fiction. Her writing and drawing has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, which nominated her work for the Pulitzer Pr...more
More about Lauren Redniss...
Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout Comics Sketchbooks: The Private Worlds of Today's Most Creative Talents

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“In the wake of a human being's death, what survives is a set of afterglows, some brighter and some dimmer, in the collective brains of those who were dearest to them...Though the primary brain has been eclipsed, there is, in those who remain...a collective corona that still glows. - Douglas Hofstadter” 2 likes
“We must eat, drink, sleep, be idle, have sex, love, touch the sweetest things in life and yet not succumb to them.” 2 likes
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