A Fierce Radiance
New York City is awash with a sense of purpose in 1941, in the days
following the U.S.'s involvement in WWII. Emotions are heightened, and
everyone wants to do something meaningful. Claire Shipley stumbles upon the
greatest story of her career when she is assigned to take pictures of the
scientists at the Rockefeller Institute who are working against time to develop
life-saving antibiotics. Little does she know that the assignment will involve
blackmail, espionage, and murder.
Claire is shocked by what she
finds at the Institute: the doctors and researchers are attempting to cure
fatal infections with a little-known, temperamental medicine. The medicine is
called penicillin. Claire's young daughter died from an infection contracted
from a scrape on her knee, and so what was simply another assignment for Claire
quickly becomes deeply personal.
As the nation plunges into war, Claire begins an intense love affair with James
Stanton, an Institute physician given the difficult, top-secret task of
coordinating penicillin research for the military. Meanwhile Edward Rutherford,
Claire's long-estranged father and a self-made millionaire entrepreneur,
comprehends the potential of new medications like penicillin to transform the
very nature of human existence. When an Institute researcher dies under
suspicious circumstances, the stakes involved in the antibiotic breakthrough become
starkly clear: with fortunes to be made in the business of saving lives, some
person, or some company, is willing to commit murder to gain control of the
best of the new medications. Caught amidst the extremes of war and greed,
Claire and Jamie find their love challenged in ways they could never have
A Fierce Radiance is at once a thriller, a love story, a family saga,
and a window into American history, evoking the pure essence of war-time New York. It portrays
the tumultuous early days of World War II, when many feared that America would lose the
war, when even children were caught up in the sacrifices demanded by the
nation's mobilization, and when individuals clung fiercely to their loved ones,
because no one could predict what tomorrow would bring. In addition, the novel
recreates the era before antibiotics, when fatal infections were so common that
parents could never count on their children surviving into adulthood. Belfer's
historical exploration of the origins of these life-saving drugs, whose
efficacy has since been reduced through over-prescription and the growth of
antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, is a natural segue to today's heated
debate in the medical community over antibiotic use.
Praise for A Fierce Radiance
The Washington Post has named A Fierce Radiance to their list of the Best Novels of 2010
NPR has named A Fierce Radiance one of the best mysteries of 2010
"Historical fiction that sizzles."
- The Washington Post
"A feast of storytelling wonders."
"An adventure story."
- The New York Times Book Review
"A love story and murder mystery rolled into panoramic family saga and industrial-espionage thriller....Belfer's prose is heartbreaking, as are her twin themes of love and betrayal."
- USA Today
"Lauren Belfer's story of love in the time of penicillin is
enthralling. A Fierce Radiance shines with fascinating detail about a moment in
American history we have mostly forgotten, when penicillin was new, miraculous,
and in short supply. 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
An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history.
- Booklist, starred review
Belfer's second novel (after acclaimed A City of Light) follows the development of penicillin during World War II. This fulsome tale crackles with twists and rich, compelling characters struggling through. And it's a beautiful valentine to 1940s New York City. Lauren Belfer is a feeling person's Dan Brown! Great storytelling and worth the wait!.
- Eileen Charbonneau, Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook and Red Hook, New York
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