Sunday, June 27, 2010
Review-A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer
A FIERCE RADIANCE
by Lauren Belfer
Harper/Harper Collins Publishers
$25.99/$33.99 Can; 544 pages
ISBN 13 : 9780061252518
On Sale: 6/15/2010
Taken for granted now, it is hard to fathom that prior to WWII a person could die from a minor scratch just as easily as pneumonia and other staphylococcal bacterium. During the war, soldiers were seriously wounded in mass numbers often recovering from wounds yet later died from infection. The government saw penicillin as a critical weapon of war. By saving lives lost from infection, troops could be returned to the war to fight again.
The government recruited pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Pfizer among others to focus all research on the development, production, clinical trials and ultimately the administration of penicillin. To stem competition the government disallowed a patent on penicillin. However, these same companies worked furiously to develop alternate patentable antibiotics that would prove more lucrative.
A Fierce Radiance is an absorbing fictional account of this momentous, life changing scientific discovery that became the medical breakthrough of the decade. The story takes place just after Pearl Harbor in New York City, 1941. Claire Shipley is a famous photojournalist who works for Life magazine. Her assignment is to cover the story of the miracle drug penicillin as it is administered and tested on a dying patient at the Rockefeller Institute. Claire is a witness to the patient’s recovery. The drug works! Unfortunately, without sufficient supply on hand, the patient relapses and dies. Deemed by her boss, Henry Luce, magazine mogul and husband of Clare Booth Luce as too depressing, too controversial her story never will not run.
What follows is the sudden violent death of the beautiful young assiduous mycologist, Tia Stanton, sister of Claire’s new boyfriend Jamie. Tia’s impressive research was startling one formula showed positive results with hopeful promise.
Claire’s life becomes the lens and conduit for Belfer’s compelling story.
Her daughter Emily died very young, a victim of illness that had penicillin been around would have saved her. Divorced, she now lives with her son Charlie. Her father, Edward Rutherford, is a lonely millionaire, estranged for years and absent from her childhood. Recently he has pursued a father-daughter relationship they never had.
Rutherford learns about the new miracle drug and its healing possibilities. He invests his money in a new pharmaceutical company and joins the penicillin race. When Jamie Stanton accuses Rutherford of killing his sister Tia, Claire’s world appears to collapse.
A Fierce Radiance takes you back to the exciting age of discovery and the highly charged days during World War II when the race to win the war was in everyone’s hearts. Belfer succeeds in recreating the fury of this historical period with astute memoir like details. Claire stands out as a resilient character who will be remembered for her strength, faith and ability to forgive. A memorable impressively written story with timely relevance.
Disclosure: This copy of A Fierce Radiance was sent to me by the publisher, Harper Collins.