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Radium Halos

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Radium Halos is historical fiction based on the true events of the Radium Dial Painters, a group of female factory workers who, in the early 1920s, contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch dials with radium paint. Our narrator is Helen Waterman, a 65-year-old mental patient who worked at the factory when she was 16. She tells us her story through flashba ...more
ebook, 226 pages
Published July 3rd 2009 by Smashwords Edition (first published June 29th 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 538)
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Susan
First, I want to say that a three-star review from me is not a negative review. It means I liked the book, but it either had flaws, in my opinion, that caused me to enjoy it less than I might have otherwise, or it was simply not to my taste. I'm the first one on goodreads to rate it at less than 4 stars, so obviously other people really liked it.

This novel is told from the perspective of Helen, who worked one summer with her sister at the Radium Dial Company when they were both just teenagers, p
...more
Savannah
I loved this book. I was expecting more "lawsuit" stuff, and was actually glad to see that wasn't the case (a thin veneer over a political statement, however gut-wrenching and important, never makes a truly good novel). Instead, this was all about a depth of character, and the dark circumstances that united the main character in a conspiracy of silence. Yet the lawsuits and the medical situations recurred as a plotline that captivated interest.

I loved the myriad of tiny details that came across
...more
Laura McDonald
In the 1920s the Radium Dial Company opened a factory in Illinois producing luminous paint made from radium. This paint was used to paint clock faces, safety signs, even watches for soldiers-anything that needed to glow in the dark. The primarily female workers at this factory and a similar one in New Jersey were told that the paint was harmless and were even encouraged to lick their paint brushes to sharpen them. This ingestion of the radioactive paint led to severe health problems and sometime ...more
Tara Chevrestt
While reading this novel, I was reminded of that popular teen book and movie, "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Tho not a bad book, it wasn't what I was expecting, a novel about factory life in the 1920s and the hazards and effects of working with radium. Instead, the novel is really about a group of teenagers that commit a crime one summer and vow to never tell about it. They just all happen to work at the Radium Dial Company.

The book did go into some of the health hazards and side effects of
...more
Emily
I thought this book was fascinating. The fact that radium was seen as no big deal - even a cure for illness - always makes me wary of science today.

My one problem with the book is with having the story being told from the viewpoint of Helen - a mentally deficient 65 year old lady. It really limited the development of the other characters. In her eyes, everyone was either all good or all bad. I was interested in Pearl's story as she really had a terrible childhood - a mother who died of radium po
...more
Candy
I purchased this book a year ago, but it kept getting pushed to the side. I was on a flight and needed something to read and saw this on my kindle and decided it was time to read it. I don't remember much of the rest of the flights I took that day. This is a fantastically absorbing novel that pulls you into the world of the radium dial painters not only through history but through the fictional story that the author has created for us.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't really know much about t
...more
Carol
Radium Halos: A Novel about the Radium Dial Painters by Shelly Stout made me lay aside another book that I was reading at the same time. It was a strange reading experience for me, this is a page turner but I had trouble connecting with the main characters. I wanted to know what is going to happen next!

This is a fictional story of real situation in United States. Women really did paint numbers on the faces of clocks and watches with paint that had radium in it. Later, there were lawsuits won and
...more
Karen
I have a special interest in working-class history and literature -- especially women's working-class history, so I was delighted to find Radium Halos (through GoodReads, even), a fictional account of the Radium Dial Painters. While novels have been written about other aspects of women's history, (The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, for instance, is a very popular topic for literature), I had never read a fictional account of The Radium Girls. During the early part of the 20th century, ...more
Darcia Helle
This book is fiction based on the true story of the Radium Dial Painters. These were young women who worked in a factory, painting clock and watch dials with radium paint. Most of these women died tragic deaths, after suffering long illnesses from radium poisoning.

Shelley Stout held me captive with this story. She doesn't weigh us down with the facts and lawsuit details. That is better done in a nonfiction book. With Radium Halos, Stout gives us Helen Waterman, a woman who once worked in the Ra
...more
Karla
What a great idea for a story, so original and I loved Helen's voice thoughout the novel. Really is an interesting look into young women doing factory work in the 1920's. Sure made me ill reading how they were taken advantage of and not honestly informed of what they were using and it's dangers. Sad to hear they never really won much from their plight. Since I work production on a larger scale I feel like I really learned and became more informed of the background of this issue in factories and ...more
Shelli
I really enjoyed this book. This was a subject I didn't know anything about....the fictional story around the true events that happened at The Radium Dial Company was very interesting and kept my attention. Some of the descriptions were very hard to read, but it made the story that much more heartwrenching. I came to care about these characters and felt awful for the real women who suffered through this terrible event in history. The story is told by Helen who is 65, but tells of her time as a t ...more
Elaine
This story shifts between past and present. Present day has Helen in an infirmary where they are no longer "patients" but "residents." The past has Helen, her sister Violet, and their friend Clara painting the numbers on clocks and watch dials with radium in the factory which employs mostly females. To get a point fine enough on the brush to make the numbers, they are to "kiss" the brush, in essence, eating the radium - a radioactive metal.

Helen tells the story in her uncultured way of talking,
...more
Shawn Davis
Helen is in a mental hospital. She doesn't seem insane; maybe a little slow and maybe a little provincial. Her Carolina accent is front and center in the way she speaks and the way she thinks.

But she doesn't seem crazy.

We begin early on to learn what the problem is: Helen was one of the women who worked at the Radium Dial plant, painting the watch dials so that they would glow in the dark. The women that did this job were paid well, but they were never informed of the dangers in the work they we
...more
Megan Palasik
I read this book on my Kindle last weekend when I was on some long flights and waiting in airports. A few years ago I read a book called Radium Girls by Claudia Clark for a chemistry class in college. Since I enjoyed learning through that book, this book, which is a work of fiction, sounded right up my alley.

Radium Halos is about a woman named Helen. Helen is now an older woman who lives in a mental institution, but she was one of the Radium Dial girls for a summer when she was 16-years-old. The
...more
Barb
I saw this novel on a friend's bookshelf and it sparked my curiosity. I recently read 'The Death Instinct' by Jed Rubenfeld and radium played a role, I was again remind of this novel and went to reserve it through my library's Inter Library Loan service and was happy to receive a copy very quickly.

Shelly Stout weaves together two stories; one of the past where as a young girl our narrator Helen, her sister Violet and her good friend Clara Jane work at the Radium Dials Company in Ottawa, Illinoi
...more
Holly Weiss
Mar 22, 2011 Holly Weiss rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History lovers, womens rights advocates
I truly enjoyed Radium Halos. More importantly, I commend Shelley Stout for opening the secret of the women who used radioactive paint to create luminous clock and watch dials at the Radium Dial Factory. It was historical fiction with a punch - an important story to be told.

Radium Halos is a remarkable fictional account of Helen, a North Carolina sixteen-year-old who worked in the Radium Dial Company in Illinois during the 1920s. Helen at age 65 suffers from an undefined mental problem, probably
...more
T.H. Waters
Shelley Stout takes command of the protagonist's voice in this historical fiction novel and captures it so convincingly. As a reader, your heart breaks for the hardship endured not only by the main character, Helen Waterman, but for all the real-life Radium Dial Painters, a group of female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch and clock dials with radium paint in the early 1920s. These woman unknowingly gave their lives for such a elemental quest... to e ...more
stormhawk
Since I was in high school, I've known about the radium dial painters. There was a radioactive house in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania that got a lot of national attention. It wasn't part of a radium dial factory, though. A doctor had his wife and daughters packing needles full of radium that were used in medical procedures. The articles I read usually made mention of the radium dial factories, and the health problems encountered by the workers.

Ms. Stout goes beyond the science of the situation, and te
...more
Irene
Radium Halos is not only a fascinating read but also a beautifully written narrative based on young women employed by The Radium Dial Company in the 1920’s, to paint dials on watches and clocks with luminescent radium paint. Neither aware nor informed they willingly sought to attain perfection in the precise art of such labor, which involved swallowing a smidgen of deadly radium whenever a brush was “tipped” to a perfect point.

The unlikely narrator Helen weaves her commemoration tapestry with s
...more
R.L.
I liked the story; I liked Helen. The book was funny and poignant, especially so when you think that things like this happened to real people.

My main problem is that there were a couple of major things that I didn't find convincing:
(1) the relationship between Helen and Adrienne. I kept feeling distracted by nagging questions about why Adrienne would do all those nice things for Helen? Yes, Adrienne's a nurse, and yes, she really needs a friend, but she has her own (huge) problems, and I just c
...more
Donna
Given that the subtitle is "A Novel About the Radium Dial Painters", I expected there to be more of a focus on the girls actually working in the factory that used radium paint. But although it is a thread that runs through the story, it really isn't at all what the story is about.

The story is narrated by Helen who spent a summer working at the Radium Dial factory in Illinois. Something tragic happens that summer that affects the rest of Helen's life. The story is set mainly in the early 1970's,
...more
Carla
I really enjoyed this book, even though at times it infuriated me. It's a novel, but it's based on actual events and no doubt there were actual women who suffered through what the ones in this book did.

The characters in this story really came alive for me. The main character, Helen, is someone I wish I really knew -- and also someone my heart ached for through most of this book.

I enjoy stories told in retrospect by older people, and the author did a beautiful job with that technique.

I don't re
...more
Tara
Radium Halos is historical fiction based on the true events of the Radium Dial Painters, a group of female factory workers who, in the early 1920s, contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch dials with radium paint. Our narrator is Helen Waterman, a 65-year-old mental patient who worked at the factory when she was 16. She tells us her story through flashbacks, slowly revealing her past, the loved ones she's lost, and the dangerous secrets she's kept all these years.

I enjoyed thi
...more
Glenda
Radium Halos is based on the true events of the Radium Dial Painters, a group of female factory workers who, in the early 1920s, contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch dials with radium paint. Our narrator is Helen Waterman, a 65-year-old mental patient who worked at the factory when she was 16. She tells us her story through flashbacks, slowly revealing her past, the loved ones she's lost, and the dangerous secrets she's kept all these years.
This is a subject I knew nothing
...more
Candace
Mar 24, 2010 Candace rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers interested in history, injustice, women
This is a novel, not a history book, but it does a good job of throwing light on the lives and fates of the women who painted clock numerals with radium paint. The narrator is believable and her story is engrossing. There are multiple strands to the story, some having nothing to do with the radium dial painters. Other issues threaded through the story involve mental illness, drug addiction, family relationships, and there is perhaps even a nod to a clandestine lesbian relationship between two of ...more
Lana Voynich
I enjoyed reading Radium Halos: A Novel about the Radium Dial Painters by Shelley Stout so much that I finished it in one day. I'd never heard of the radium dial painters before, so it was great learning about them while being entertained by the intriguing characters and all their realistic foibles. Ms. Stout's distinct voice made it seem like I was listening to the main character, Helen Waterman, tell the story instead of reading it. I laughed with the characters and found myself near tears at ...more
LaDonna Bubak
Radium Halos is a novel of such depth and subtlety that, once started, is nearly impossible to put out of your mind. Seeing the world through Helen's mentally ill eyes is fascinating, but even more fascinating is what she's lived through. The characters are well-developed and very human - the jerks have redeeming qualities, and the angels have flaws. In fact, the entire book is an amazing representation of life: What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

Don't be worried, like I was, that this will
...more
Leonard
This is a fascinating book that takes the story of the girls who painted the dials on clocks with radium in the 1930s another step. Although it is fiction, it captures the lives and working conditions of these girls and the time, but it goes farther, entering the intimate mind of its main character and following her throughout her life. In its own way it is not only a commentary on the industrial practices of our society, but on health care and the treatment of the mentally ill.

It challenges ou
...more
Roxann
Ok, I admit it: I read this one mainly because it was a cheap Kindle download and I needed something to read on a flight. It turned out to be an interesting historical novel about the radium dial painters of the early 20th century who painted watch and clock faces with luminescent radium paint that led to their poisoning and horrific illnesses and deaths. The novel is about 2 sisters and the friends they make while working at the factory. The real story is broader and more historically significa ...more
Sara Backer
What's rare and neat about this novel is that it doesn't follow the "victim formula" of fiction concerning social causes. I expected Radium Halos to depict how bad things were for the girls who painted radium dials and how heartlessly their employer exploited them for profit. Instead, Shelley Stout shows us how difficult it is to correlate causes and effects and how the more you know about the big picture and the messiness of life and relationships, the harder it is to assign blame. Along the wa ...more
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Originally from Annandale, Virginia, Shelley Stout resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with her two grown sons. She also enjoys volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Shelley is a contributing writer for Parent Teacher Magazine, and her award-winning fiction has appeared in anthologies, The Storyteller Magazine and online at WordRiot.
More about Shelley Stout...
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