Title: A Fierce Radiance
Author: Lauren Belfer
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition
Publication Date: March 29, 2011
Paperback: 560 pages
A Washington Post Best Novel of the Year
An NPR Mystery of the Year
In the anxious days after Pearl Harbor, Life photojournalist Claire Shipley finds herself covering one of the nation’s most important stories. At New York City’s renowned Rockefeller Institute, researchers are racing to save thousands of wounded American soldiers and countless others by developing a miraculous new drug they call penicillin. For Claire, a single mother haunted by the loss of her young daughter—a death the miracle drug could have prevented—the story is cuttingly personal, especially after she unexpectedly begins to fall in love with the shy and brilliant head physician, James Stanton. But Claire isn’t the only one interested in the secret cure. When a researcher dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes become starkly clear: someone understands just how profitable the new drug could be—and will stop at nothing to get it. Now, with lives and a new love hanging in the balance, Claire will throw herself into harm’s way to find a killer—no matter what price she may have to pay.
A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer is a complex story regarding WWII era New York, the invention of Penicillin, politics, and romance. Belfer weaves all these topics together to create a story of romance, intrigue, and mystery. Claire Shiply is a 36-year-old photojournalist for Life Magazine, a divorcee and mother to one living child, her daughter died of septicemia. When Claire is given the assignment to photograph penicillin, she witnesses first hand the miraculous powers of this life-saving medicine as well as the politics behind the pharmaceutical companies. While working the case, Claire meets Dr. James Stanton and immediately they are attracted to one another. Belfer does an excellent job in portraying life in New York and abroad during WWII, the reader is left with little to imagine, and one can feel the frantic pace of life during a war, especially as the war casualties continue to increase. Belfer uses her protagonist’s photos to bring the history and controversy over penicillin to life, especially the greed and power that can often blind those in charge. Had the book remained this way, without the added dimension of lust, I would have rated it higher. This is my prejudice and not the fault of the author. I do not care for romance novels and this one strayed one too many times for my taste. I would however recommend A Fierce Radiance to those who enjoy a good historical fiction novel with a hint of mystery and romance.
Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. At Swarthmore College, she majored in Medieval Studies. After graduating, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University.
Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a #1 Book Sense pick, a Barnes& Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into seven languages. She is also the author of the novel A Fierce Radiance.
Belfer’s fiction has also been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.
Lauren Belfer lives in New York City.
To learn more about the author and her books, please visit her website.
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I received a complimentary copy of A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.