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A Thin Bright Line

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  64 reviews
At the height of the Cold War, Lucybelle Bledsoe is offered a job seemingly too good to pass up. However, there are risks. Her scientific knowledge and editorial skills are unparalleled, but her personal life might not withstand government scrutiny.

Leaving behind the wreckage of a relationship, Lucybelle finds solace in working for the visionary scientist who is extracting
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by University of Wisconsin Press
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  329 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Historical fiction like this always makes me so thankful for the people who came before me. Unwilling to remain silent and unseen. How brave they were.
Even though I loved the story, the best part to me was the post script. It was such a personal story for the author which made the whole thing a little more interesting.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not sure yet what to do with all my feels. Best thing I've read in along time.


Ok, a couple of hours later and I think I may be able to write about this coherently.

I've always liked Bledsoe's writing, but she outdid herself here. You feel that this story is a labor of love and that she pours everything she's got into it. The introduction and the postscript (which I cried right through) go into this and I feel she did her aunt proud.

I've read about the McCarthy era before, and I've read abou
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Thin Bright Line is a thoroughly engrossing novel. It fully succeeds on several levels. First, it captures two particular eras in American history--the paranoia of Joe McCarthy's 1950s as well as the anxious hopefulness of Dr. King's 1960s. The story contrasts the lives of lesbians trying to survive amidst the institutionalized homophobia and racism of that period. Second, the story features two wonderfully realized love stories. And third, and for this reader most compelling aspect of the nov ...more
Jane Hamilton
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deft and entertaining. A pleasure to read about a women in the sciences. I love that Lucy Jane Bledsoe is writing lesbians back into history, and her imagined family story both breaks my heart and mends it.
Sissy Van Dyke
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-books
LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are no strangers to alienation, discrimination, and all manner of oppression, that confronts members of our community on an ongoing basis. However, I am very pleased to say that most of our youth will be unfamiliar with the fear that comes from the knowledge that coming out could lead to loss of one's job, career, future and possibly even imprisonment. This is an existential, ontological fear that follows one daily and hovers like a cloak over our lives, our friends, and, ...more
Lori Ostlund
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, which is beautifully written and weaves together major historical events--the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, McCarthyism--with the life of LucyBelle Bledsoe, a science writer and lesbian. LucyBelle, the main character, is a fictionalized version of the author's aunt, about whom she has done extensive research, yet never does the book feel overwhelmed by research (as is sometimes the case with historical fiction). Instead, LucyBelle exists on the page as a fully realized ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, although I would have appreciated a bit more "humanity" . . . feelings and so!
Peter Gajdics
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lucy Jane Bledsoe's "A Thin Bright Line" has left me overwhelmed by its brilliance. From page one, I was hooked by its historical setting: the Cold War, McCarthyism, the rising civil rights movement, J.F.K and Martin Luther King, Jr., even a time in history when threatening to expose a person's "secret life" of homosexuality was still considered a weapon of disenfranchisement. All generations stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, and I am grateful to have read this book and gained greate ...more
Alex Bledsoe
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A novel based on the life of the author's namesake aunt, this took me into aspects of society I knew little about: Cold War non-atomic science, the queer subculture of the 50s, Chicago in the early 60s. The characters were all vivid and memorable, down to the party guests and the scientists. It's bittersweet as well, which isn't a spoiler if you read the author's note at the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'd had this book on my list for a while, must have seen it mentioned somewhere -- it was excellent! The 1950s time frame was fraught with secrecy and complicated hidden lifestyles for the lesbians in the story, and some handled it well, others not as much. The lesbian author based the book on her real life aunt Lucybelle who, when she researched her, was actually also a lesbian, and a cool editor and smartypants. There's a brief affair with a female Black cab company owner, a visit to a Black l ...more
Laura Joakimson
I met the author at reading and bought her book immediately because the story was compelling and the author’s love for her aunt palpable. Then the introduction was so heartbreaking I put it aside for a while. Thinking that the story was too sad for right now.

Three years later, I started reading and finished it in three days. This is a novel about a hidden figure. A hero of climate science and civil rights who lived life partially on her own terms. I love the characters and the postscript about h
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish this book - I got about 1/3 of the way into it and decided it just wasn't for me. When I read the reviews, I thought that it was going to be more about science and the polar ice core and a little bit about Lucybelle's personal life. Instead it was the other way around - not much about the science. Maybe it would get more into it later in the book, but I didn't have the patience to continue and find out.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lucy Jane Bledsoe is one of my favorite writers. This novel, an unusual blend history and personal intersections, a joyful imagining of what might have been, what should have been, balanced with what actually happened. In short, just the sort book I love. Bledsoe is named for an aunt who died when Bledsoe was young. Left with only a few memories and even fewer facts, the natural curiosity about her namesake sent Bledsoe on a quest to find out all she could. This novel rests on the bare facts, bu ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a love letter to lesbians lost. It’s beautiful, harrowing, and true. It honors the women who came before us. A must read for modern lesbians.
Sarah Campbell
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book, with its clear-eyed focus on an era of lesbian life that we know too little about, is important, lovely, heart-breaking, honest, and meticulously researched. The opening knowledge that the protagonist, Lucybelle Bledsoe (the author's aunt), died in a fire at the age of 43 created an aching tension in the narrative, as Lucybelle gained a bolder confidence in living her life in love, and Bledsoe's decision to organize the narrative by specific dates intensifies that tension. I loved Luc ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
The story behind this book is incredible, and is a testament to the thin bright line that divides the generations, even when they are separated by loss, secrets, and time. I truly loved several of Lucy Jane Bledsoe's books, most notably This Wild Silence and The Big Bang Symphony. However, I felt that this book fell short of some of the others: the plot was tedious and sometimes confusing, focused too much on intimate details of the imagined relationships and love affairs of the protagonist. Thi ...more
Kathleen Gray
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of the year. It's thoughtfully and beautifully written with a huge heart and a terrific story. Lucybelle is an incredibly brave woman who I would love to have met. Her story spans so many issues but she's so human and relatable; her untimely death is a tragedy because she undoubtedly had so much more to give and love to share. Thanks to Beldsoe for bringing her aunt to life - she's done a terrific job.
Ah gosh what to say. This book hit me pretty hard. I could see myself in a lot of it (and not always in a good way.) Lucybelle is compelled to live the life she wants, and for the most part, doesn't shy away from it for a second. That's freaking incredible, wish I had an iota of what made up that woman..

(view spoiler)
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Compelling - I was itching the whole time to get to the postscript and learn how much was real and how the author learned what she learned - and infused with both anxiety and hope throughout. The oppression of the McCarthy era slowly giving way to a more open and liberated time. Fantastic historical fiction in that it shows us how an ordinary person's life could be made so extraordinary by the scientific progress and social changes it intersected with, and in that it fills in the queerness that ...more
A Thin Bright Line is a lovely homage to the queer women who bravely navigated their careers, families, social circles by hiding (or not) their desires, their lovers, and often having to sacrifice something in the bargain. It's an homage to a little-known aunt, the author's namesake, who seemed to lived two lives: the one her family saw and/or wanted to believe and the one she actually lived, fictionalized here.

The novel itself is just okay. It meanders between engrossing and boring pretty cons
Nora Peevy
Lucy Bledsoe blends fact with fiction to uncover the lost story of her favorite aunt, Lucybelle Bledsoe, a brilliant, pioneering climate change science writer responsible for hundreds of science papers spanning the 1960s that are the basis for today's climate change knowledge, which started with The Army Corp of Engineers researching ice cores in Antarctica to reveal thousands of years of the earth's climate history. Bledsoe gives "a thin bright line" into the life of her beloved aunt who lived ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
How to describe a story you know going to be a tragic one? Yes, indeed, it is a tragic fictional biography about the author's aunt. Lucybelle and her struggles with her relationships with other women, her struggles to not to be lonesome and perhaps even more. Difference creates line which is so thin that you don't even realise it exists, although this thin line has brightness which dazzle you again and again. Perhaps I'm dazzled not by the story as much as, I'm dazzled with the context, the help ...more
Sandra Helen
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG, OMG, OMG I loved this book. The author, who is lesbian, learned that her deceased aunt for whom she was named, was also a lesbian. The woman was a scientific writer as well as an unpublished novelist, and while Bledsoe couldn't nail down enough details to write a biography, she wrote this novel making up about 50% based on those 50% facts. She created a rich and full emotional life for Lucybelle Bledsoe that is accurate for its time, has suspense, romance, just enough sex, and a dog. I hate ...more
Bobbie N
The intriguing story of the life of Lucybelle Bledsoe, written by her niece and namesake, who was hired at the height of the Cold War as a writer and editor for the publications of scientists who were working on extracting polar ice cores to learn the history of Earth's climate change while simultaneously building a secret underground city in Greenland as a possible missile-launching site against the Russians, and who herself had to lead a secret life because of the personal and professional ris ...more
Miriam Murcutt
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This work of fiction (based on fact) successfully takes on territory that is not often explored - lesbian scientists, who are trying simultaneously to fulfill their career and romantic ambitions whilst under the censorious eye of the government and the crushing egos of their male colleagues.
I thought this book was very well-written, full of pithy dialog delivered by empathetic characters. Add to this its historical context (it’s set during the mid-fifties to mid-sixties) and you have a novel tha
Ethel Rohan
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a deeply satisfying and moving read. The novel is written with such skill, and is of itself an immersive, rewarding story.

Then there's the added layer of the author's relationship to the protagonist, her aunt. Both women share "writing fiction, loving women, and polar dreams."

Bledsoe lovingly and wonderfully reclaims her aunt Lucybelle's remarkable life and groundbreaking climate work in A Thin Bright Line while depicting rich insights into the personal, professional, political, and cul
Ross Nelson
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read about a character forced to live in the closet due to her time in history, it combines research on queer life in the 50s and 60s with historical events and an engaging protagonist. While some of the elements the author emphasized seemed like odd choices and I felt there were a few to many lose end left untied, I enjoyed it. Ultimately however, the explanation of how the book came to be written (told in an afterward) felt like the most compelling part of the story.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I finished this book, I thought, "Holy moly, this is a good book."

The premise of this book is a hook that draws you in: author Lucy Jane Bledsoe is writing about the life of her aunt and namesake, Lucybelle Bledsoe. She didn't know her aunt well because Lucybelle perished in a fire when Lucy Jane was nine. However, when trying to learn more about her aunt as an adult, she learned that Lucybelle had had a remarkable life, and one with quite a lot in common with Lucy Jane.

The aunt was a scien
Virgowriter (Brad Windhauser)
Well-told imagining of a woman's story living as a lesbian during the 50s, a time of difficulties (too soft of a word) for the LGBT community. Since most of the books from this era that cover LGBT sexuality send negative messages, it's refreshing to see a story that imbues these lives with vitality and happiness (even when events are unpleasant). Also a nice handling of race.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
After reading the multitude of glowing 5-star reviews, I had to give this book a read. I came away asking, "did we read the same book?" It reads like a relationship procedural. There is little to no plot or character development. Storylines are clumsy and characters act in ways that are contrary to their unforeshadowed nature. To say it reads like non-fiction is to insult authors like Erik Larson whose masterful narrative style demonstrate that Bledsoe is out of her depth.
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The New York Times says Lucy Jane Bledsoe's novel, A THIN BRIGHT LINE, "triumphs." Ms. Magazine calls her novel, THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE, "fabulous feminist fiction." Her collection of stories, LAVA FALLS, is just out. She loves to eat, hike, hang out with friends, and dreams a lot about sea mammals. She's been to Antarctica three times, and all that is in her novel, THE BIG BANG SYMPHONY. She also ...more

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“One time they held hands while walking along the lake. Their joined palms felt like a fuse in an outlet, as if their touch was the source of everything that mattered, as if by doing this, holding hands in public, they'd be able to make better photographs and write better stories. Make better love. The power of those few minutes of not hiding felt like it could fuel an entire country.” 1 likes
“Normally Lucybelle wouldn’t suffer a fool like this for a second, but tonight she sipped her drink and took refuge in the boredom of his soliloquy, wanting the dull patter to muffle her disturbing thoughts. They broke free anyway, her thoughts, flew overhead like a flock of anxious birds, darting here and there, checking the ceiling and corners for danger.” 0 likes
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