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A Fierce Radiance

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  2,440 Ratings  ·  554 Reviews
“An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Enthralling. A Fierce Radiance shines with fascinating detail.... Belfer’s powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read.” — Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank

Set during the uncertai
ebook, 560 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published June 1st 2010)
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I won this through First Reads and thought that it would be really interesting. As far as I can tell it's a historical romance about a doctor who is trying to find a way to mass-produce penicillin and an up-and-coming photographer who wants to tell the story. The divorced photographer lost her young daughter to blood-poisoning caused by a small scrape several years later. I learned that it was really easy to die from stupid stuff like skinned knees. I also learned that the military conscripted t ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This solid historical novel (and I do mean solid, it's a very satisfying brick of a paperback!) has a yank-you-out-of-your-chair awesome first line, a fascinating premise, and enough historical details to educate as well as enthrall. At times.

Sadly, I didn't love this novel as much as I wanted to. This story suffers a bit from over research, in that it felt to me like the author tried to stuff in all the interesting details she'd discovered, unable to resist all the tempting tidbits. As a result
Book Concierge

Claire Shipley is a photojournalist working for Life magazine in the early years of World War II. She’s assigned to document the medical trials of a new wonder drug – penicillin. While her story never sees print, she becomes involved in the intrigue surrounding the efforts by various big pharmaceutical companies to develop and produce penicillin in large quantities, as needed to fight battle infections during the war.

Well this sounded much more interesting than it wound up being.

I defini
I was very disappointed by this novel. I rate Lauren Belfer's first novel 'City of Light' among my all time favorites and often recommend it. Never in a million years would I have guessed that this novel was written by the same author.

Mrs. Claire Shipley is a photographer for 'Life' magazine in the 1940s. She's given an assignment to cover the experimental use of penicillin by medical researchers at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City. Through this assignment she meets the handsome Dr. J
Linda B
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fierce Radiance crosses genres as a historical novel, a love story, a crime thriller, and a murder mystery. It captured my attention from the very beginning and held it throughout. Claire Shipley is a fascinating character as a photo journalist dealing with situations in her job, her family, and her relationships. Claire is assigned to a local hospital to report on a still experimental drug, penicillin, but her interest was more than professional. Penicillin could have saved the life of the da ...more
Despite the dreadful title, which sounds like a raunchy, erotic novel, I was drawn to this book because of it's cover. I then read the back and discovered that this is my favorite type of historical fiction - WWII era. I was even more intrigued when I read that the premise of this novel was the discovery and mass production of penecillin, something that I know little about. Combine that with a love story and a murder mystery and needless to say, I had high hopes for this book. But it definitely ...more
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I just could not get into this book. I loved the setup – it takes place in the US during WWII and the deals with the advent of penicillin. It’s unique, I think, to find a WWII era book that takes place in America. Plus, with the penicillin angle it was a completely unique premise. However, something about the writing style really put me off. The prose was robotic in a way. Also, it’s like she always used 2-3 sentences to express something that could’ve been stated in one. Opening to a random pag ...more
I wanted to like this book because the topic is fascinating, but I just could not deal with 500 pages of Belfer's writing style. She repeats things. She also says things over and over, in a repetitive manner. She uses four sentences when only one is required. She will take an idea and write it four ways and include all four of them. She says things multiple times.

Kudos to Belfer for doing her research. If you want to read about suppurating wounds in the days before antibiotics, this is your nove
Jul 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Fierce Radiance opens in the days following Pearl Harbor but the more immediate historical context is the development of penicillin and similar drugs. With this background, the novel develops both a love story and a murder mystery among a photographer, her family, and players in science and government looking for a medical breakthrough.

I'd give this 3.5 out of 5 if I could. I really enjoyed the background story much more than the feature plot. It feels unimaginable that just 70 years ago a sim
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a really long and overdramatic story which couldn't decide if it was a romance or a mystery. However, the history in here about the development of penicillin (and the way people dropped off like flies before it) was fascinating.
Paul Pessolano
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The city is New York, the time is the Second World War, and the issue is Penicillin.

"A Fierce Radiance" is a well told story that uses th above three items to weave a story, true or untrue, about the emergence of penicillin into the medical world.

Prior to penicillin one of the deadliest conditions for man was an infection. Even a small cut could mean death within days if infected with a staphylococci strain.

CFlaire Shipley, a Life photographer, has lost a daughter to an infection and finds herse
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great story and I loved learning about the development of penicillin and its "cousins". It is really astounding that 70 years ago people died from infections that one application of Neosporin would probably curtail. The story moves well and the writing is fine with one notable exception, the dialogue was so stilted and trite. Every time Claire "spoke" I cringed. Her thoughts were fine, it was just the dialogue that did not ring true. She comes across as a real stiff. However while Claire was not ...more
Catherine Siemann
I enjoyed Belfer's earlier City of Light, and the things I liked in A Fierce Radiance were very much the same -- a vivid picture of a city I love (Buffalo there, NYC here) in a historical context. There were moments of description -- particularly of the main character's West Village neighborhood -- which brought me very much into the story in an engaging way. And the topic -- the development of penicillin and other antibiotics -- is fascinating.

Overall, though, it never really drew me in -- I'd
Carol Storm
Just couldn't get into this one. It's like CHANGES by Danielle Steel only instead of being a heart surgeon this guy does research into penicillin mold. More romance, less mold!
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To win a SIGNED copy of A Fierce Radiance visit:

A front-runner for my #1 book of 2010!!

A Fierce Radiance is an extraordinary novel which comes along once every few years. I absolutely fell in love with this book and can't stop talking about it!!

A Fierce Radiance is set in the early 1940s during the first days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The story follows the life of Claire Shipley, a beautiful and talented photojournalist for Life magazine, whose boss sends her to cover the te
Jun 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a different perspective on WW II
Thank you Goodreads--another First Reads win!

Belfer is a great story teller. I loved the protagonist, Claire Shipley, a photojournalist with Life magazine, caught up in the scientific world of penicillin research during World War II, and the political intrigue of the early 1940s. She was definitely a woman ahead of her time—strong and career oriented.

The book is well researched and well-told. I was intrigued from beginning to end. The details surrounding World War II and life at the time in New
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fierce Radiance' by Lauren Belfer is a compelling novel. Comprised of several genres, this is a book to pick up and savor. I was kept riveted by a combination of history, romance and mystery. This mix makes for athrilling ride that kept me enthralled throughout.

The era is 1941 through 1944. The book opens just after Japan has bombed Pearl Harbor. Our country has declared war and young men are being drafted or
signing up for the military. Some of us can still picture this era. For those of you w
Lorin Cary
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Lauren Belfer, A Fierce Radiance

Lauren Belfer’s novel is stunning–in pacing, characterization and setting. Set during the trans formative era of World War II, it captures a period in more ways than I can satisfactorily say. From people listening to radio reports on war developments, to larger issues such as the Federal Government’s critical role in medical research.

There are several principal characters. Claire Shipley is a single Mom, and a photographer for Life magazine. James Stanton is a ph
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the topics: the development of antibiotics and the intersection of the drug companies and the government during WWII, the role of LIFE magazine during the war, and the general attention to details about daily life in New York at that time. But, but .... omniscient point of view with "a lot of 'splainin" as Ricky used to tell Lucy. Maybe it seemed like too much because I listened rather than read.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by a friend, and, once I picked it up, I realized I had read (and really loved) this author’s previous book, City of Light (about Buffalo at the turn of the century). So I was eager to get into this one, and it did not let me down!

Historical fiction about the first mass-production of penicillin during WWII. It had of course been previously discovered by Alexander Fleming but it was notoriously had to produce and to replicate until the U.S. government got behind it during WWII in ord
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved the basis of the book in which the scientists at the Rockefeller Institute are trying to develop and mass produce penicillin which they hope will prevent a scraped knee from developing into septicemia. Unfortunately, that thread gets lost at times in the personal history the author felt she needed for almost every individual in the book. From the moment Claire Shipley meets James Stanton on assignment she's sizing him up, the possibility of establishing a meaningful relationship with him ...more
David Mcphee
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It’s a about the production of penicillin after the outbreak of the WWII. The story deals the clinical awakening to the effect of this new drug, and the commercial dynamics of the pharmaceutical industry racing to perfect mass-production of the drug all the while struggling while governments came to grips with the military consequences of the drug. But what makes this really gripping for me is the way the author inter weaves the clinical, long term commercial and short term military and governme
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the premise of this book. Very fascinating topic. Life magazine, and it's reporters was not even something I would have thought about. Add to that the development of penicillin and it had the makings for a very good book. The information was very well done, presented in an interesting way, but just didn't like the story. It was a bit jumpy time wise, then the randomness of developing of characters as well as changing of voice was weird. When it came to the ending, I was just fru ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel contained some beautiful writing, great historical detail and characters I really enjoyed. I loved learning about the development of penicillin and it gave me pause to recognize what an advancement that was - and what a security it (and its antibiotic cousins) affords us.

The reason my rating is not higher is that I found some of the romantic storyline to be too much "telling" for my taste. I don't mean that the scenes were overly sexual, just that the descriptions of falling in love
Stacey (wanderlustforwords67)
I wish I wanted to rate this higher. I enjoyed the nonfiction parts about the discovery and research to make Penicillin a viable drug, and the trials of application in NY during WWII. She used the real people involved in this research, as well as the real pharmaceutical companies. I LOVED hearing about life at home during the Second World War, as I've only read about the war on European soil. I also liked that she goes over the facts the last 7 minutes of the audiobook. However, the story she cr ...more
PennsyLady (Bev)
WWII era novel set in New York City
Historical fiction weaving a story of military history, medical advancement
espionage and love set in the later days of WWII

As a photographer for LIFEmagazine Claire Shipley is sent to cover a story on the hard to produce, still experimental drug penicillin.
The story is killed and the government chooses Claire to follow the penicillin trail.
She is sent to keep" an eye on the big pharmaceutical companies who are supposed to be mass-producing patent-free penicilli
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Very readable and had me wanting to turn the pages. The story has much more plot and a lot less characterization than I would prefer, keeping me from rating it even 4 stars. However, it fit right into the easy and quick read I was wanting. To be fair, the book is set in good historical context, which I appreciated, and I learned something about the reasons for penicillin coming to market at the time it did. Coupled with a bit of romance and a bit of cloak and dagger work and it makes for a satis ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book tremendously which is great because I'm preparing an extensive report on it to present to my Outlook Club in October.

A fascinating and often tragic look at the accelerated efforts to make penicillin viable and available to treat the troops during World War 2.

The story is told via historical fiction, with a female Life magazine photographer as the main character. The book is also filled with real life figures.

So engaging!
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It was rich with detail about that period in American history, the characters were well drawn and I connected with them emotionally. I loved the details when the photojournalist is working, such as taking pictures of the Rockettes for the cover of Life Magazine. It all resonated with me! It's a keeper!
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book - a murder mystery/love story set during WWII and revolving around the discovery of penicillin. I was a little skeptical that the author could successfully pull off the love story and the murder mystery, but it actually worked pretty seamlessly. I loved the setting and the fact that it centered around a real historical event.
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Play Book Tag: A Fierce Radiance / Lauren Belfer - 2.5** 1 9 Mar 17, 2017 12:41PM  
book club at my house 1 17 Aug 12, 2011 05:59PM  
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Lauren Belfer’s most recent novel, AND AFTER THE FIRE, received the inaugural Book Club Award of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards.

Lauren grew up in Buffalo, New York, and decided to become a writer when she was six years old. By the time she was in high school, her literary work was receiving rejection letters from all the best publications. Some of these letters included the initials of the p
More about Lauren Belfer...

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