A FIERCE RADIANCE by Lauren Belfer

Book Quote:

“Anne Miller. Wife, mother, nurse. Weeks of medication, available on a day’s notice. Suddenly Jamie grasps the truth. Anne Miller was different from the other critically ill penicillin patients he’d treated. Different from Edward Reese and Sophia Metaxas. Different for one reason only: Anne Miller would survive. The first human to be rescued from death by penicillin.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (JUN 15, 2010)

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 a thrilling 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 who are younger, let me give you a taste. Disease is rampant. There is no cure for polio, streptococcus infections, pneumonia, sepsis, cholera, tetanus or scarlet fever. There is a season for every illness and parents are frightened all the time that their children will die. Adults are frightened for their own lives. On top of that, our nation is at war and, other than sulfa drugs, which have limited curative ability, the United States has no medications to halt infection or disease for its own military.

Claire Shipley is a successful photographer for Life Magazine, the most popular news magazine in the nation. She has already lost one child to sepsis eight years ago. One day Emily fell on the sidewalk and cut her knee. A few days later she was dead. Her younger son, Charlie, is still living but Claire fears for his life at every turn. Claire is assigned to do a photo essay on penicillin, a new drug that is supposedly being developed. This miracle drug, developed from a green mold, is an antibiotic that supposedly has the power to stop gram positive infections in their tracks.

Dr. James Stanton is a physician who is at the forefront of penicillin’s so, in a sense, he holds the key to life and death. However, the supply of this drug is very limited and it is being produced in jars, bedpans and whatever other containers can be found. James meets Claire during the photo shoot and sparks fly. Theirs is a love at first sight but they don’t have much time because James is immediately sent to the war front. His job is to utilize the short supplies of penicillin on the injured servicemen.

Meanwhile, government agencies are becoming directly involved in the production of penicillin. Money is being allocated to institutes and scientists involved in its development. The pharmaceutical companies are ordered to cooperate rather than compete. The government declares that there is to be no patent on penicillin. Rather, it is to be developed by all private companies and utilized for wartime efforts.

James’ sister, Tia, is working on an alternative type of antibiotic, one that comes from the soil. The pharmaceutical companies get wind of this and start pouring their efforts into what they term “the cousins” to penicillin – alternative antibiotics that work on gram negative as well as gram positive infections. This is being done in secret. Claire gets wind of this and tries to get to the bottom of things. Now things get very interesting and the book becomes a real thriller.

I loved Lauren Belfer’s first novel, and A Fierce Radiance does not disappoint. She has done her research. I am usually not a great fan of historical novels, but this one is different than most others. It grabs you and may even rip your shirt in the process. I suggest that you buckle down for a satisfying read. You’ll be so riveted you may not be able to come up for air or find the time to sew the tear in your shirt.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 39 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper; 1 edition (June 15, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More break through in medicine fiction:

Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg


June 15, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, New York City, Reading Guide

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.