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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Tried, I Really Tried ...

So, I tried, I really tried to enjoy A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer. Its topic (the development of penicilin during WWII) is fascinating and if the book had been non-fiction, I think I would have connected more with it. As it was, I found the omniscient viewpoint distancing, the characters off-putting, and the whole thing just too long and dull for me. I gave up around Page 150.

I seem to be in the minority, however, as most reviewers liked the book. You can see readers' comments on Amazon here and Barnes & Noble here. Also, please click here to see all the blogs that have reviewed/will be reviewing the book on its tour with TLC Book Tours.

If you've read the book, what do you think? Should I have been more patient? Given the plot more time to develop? What are your thoughts?

Oh, and here's the book's synopsis. I copied and pasted it from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light comes a compelling, richly detailed tale of passion and intrigue set in New York City during the tumultuous early days of World War II.

Claire Shipley is a single mother haunted by the death of her young daughter and by her divorce years ago. She is also an ambitious photojournalist, and in the anxious days after Pearl Harbor, the talented
Life magazine reporter finds herself on top of one of the nation's most important stories. In the bustling labs of New York City's renowned Rockefeller Institute, some of the country's brightest doctors and researchers are racing to find a cure that will save the lives of thousands of wounded American soldiers and countless others—a miraculous new drug they call penicillin. Little does Claire suspect how much the story will change her own life when the work leads to an intriguing romance.

Though Claire has always managed to keep herself separate from the subjects she covers, this story touches her deeply, stirring memories of her daughter's sudden illness and death—a loss that might have been prevented by this new "miracle drug." And there is James Stanton, the shy and brilliant physician who coordinates the institute's top secret research for the military. Drawn to this dedicated, attractive man and his work, Claire unexpectedly finds herself falling in love. But Claire isn't the only one interested in the secret development of this medicine. Her long-estranged father, Edward Rutherford, a self-made millionaire, understands just how profitable a new drug like penicillin could be. When a researcher at the institute dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes become starkly clear: a murder has been committed to obtain these lucrative new drugs. With lives and a new love hanging in the balance, Claire will put herself at the center of danger to find a killer—no matter what price she may have to pay.

Lauren Belfer dazzled readers with her debut novel, City of Light, a New York Times notable book of the year. In this highly anticipated follow-up, she deftly captures the uncertainty and spirit, the dreams and hopes, of a nation at war. A sweeping tale of love and betrayal, intrigue and idealism, A Fierce Radiance is an ambitious and deeply engaging novel from an author of immense talent.


  1. Not every book is for every person, Susan. Don't worry about it. I might pick this one up from the cover alone. I need a hat like that!

  2. I've been wary of this book despite all the great reviews it got. After reading your review I know why, i sounds dull and flat and more like good material for a documentary.

  3. I have found many books that have a really great synopsis or reviews but after getting into it thought "yikes, this stinks" and gave up. Reading is definitely a personal choice.

  4. I read your pain...I have started and not finished many books, and have learned to let it go. Life is too short to read books you are not enjoying! :0)

  5. It's pretty sad when a fiction book would have been better as a non-fiction. Don't get me wrong I link non-fiction but I prefer fiction. Plus, I'm sorry, but the development of penicillin? My eyes are already glazed over.

  6. I'm still reading it. It does take a long time to develop... but I feel like it has gotten better about halfway through. Like Kay said, not every book is for every person. No sense wasting your time on something that you aren't enjoying.

  7. I agree. I just wondered if I quit this one too soon. Guess not :) And Jenny - I really do think the subject is interesting. Really, I do!

  8. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be your cup of tea but thanks for giving it a shot!

  9. I read this book last year when it came out, right after reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I wanted to continue the medical mode I was in. I may be in the minority. Because I am in the medical field. I found the historical background of the story fascinating, and enjoyed reading. But I don't remember much. But, everyone has likes and dislikes that is what makes us unique. Sorry, this book did not work for you.


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