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Radium Halos

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3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  231 Ratings  ·  65 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 640)
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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
Dec 10, 2009 Savannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Shari Larsen
This story is historical fiction based on true events, of the girls who worked at the Radium Dial Company during the late 1900's and 1920's, who contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch and clock dials with paint containing radium. They were not told at the time that anything about the job was dangerous. In fact, they were encouraged to "kiss" the brush after dipping it into the paint to make a nice point on it in order to paint the numbers, and were told the paint was "harmle ...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
Jul 11, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indie
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
May 16, 2011 Candy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2011 Karla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2011 Shelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Debbi
Sep 09, 2015 Debbi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the 1920's, the Radium Dial company opened a factory in Illinois and one in New Jersey that employed mostly women to use radium paint to hand paint the numbers and/or information on clocks, watches, and anything else that needed to glow in the dark. They used small paint brushes and were taught to "kiss" the tip of the brush with the paint on it to get the sharpest point. This entailed putting the brush into the mouth and drawing it out through the lips. After an extended period of doing this ...more
Sarah Crawford
Feb 11, 2016 Sarah Crawford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fictional book, but is based on real facts, specifically a court case centering around women who painted the faces of watches with radium. Needless to say, this led to many health problems.

A woman (Helen Waterman, 65) in the hospital narrates the story. The novel moves like human thought does at time, from the present to the past suddenly, then back to the present.

Helen and Violet are told about jobs available at a Radium Dial Factory, so they interview there and get the jobs. Their t
...more
Linda
Jun 19, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on a true story about the Radium Dial Painters this is a historical fiction. I enjoyed this book about sisters who worked in a factory for a summer in the 1920's. They used paint with radium in it to paint the dials of watches and clocks. There is a secret that a group of friends from the factory have sworn to keep until death. Told in the first person of Helen Waterman who at 65 finds herself in a mental institution. I enjoyed the story of working conditions, women, friendship, loyalty an ...more
Elaine
Jul 21, 2010 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2010 Megan Palasik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, history
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
Dec 29, 2010 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing  ·  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
Oct 28, 2012 T.H. Waters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 21, 2010 stormhawk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
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
May 01, 2010 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
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
Sunflower
The terrible consequence of being made to lick the brushes that they were using to paint luminous numbers on watch dials lurked years in the future for these workers. In this novel for some of them their concern was much more about a crime they commit and agree to keep silent about, even after several of them die, and this is the main plot of this book. I learnt about the radium dial painters for the first time, and found this the most interesting part of the story, which I wish had been explore ...more
R.L.
Aug 26, 2010 R.L. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 JFCL
Aug 04, 2011 Carla JFCL rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
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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.
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