4 reviews

A Fierce Radiance: A Novel (P.S.)
by Lauren Belfer

Published: 2011-03-29
Paperback : 560 pages
6 members reading this now
8 clubs reading this now
3 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 4 members

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 ...

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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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter I

Wednesday morning, December 10, 1941

The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York City

Claire Shipley was no doctor, but even she could see that the man on the stretcher was dying. His lips were blue from lack of oxygen. His cheeks were hollow, his skin leathery and tight against his bones. His eyes were open but unfocused, like the glass eyes in a box at a doll factory she’d once photographed. Although his hair was full and dark brown, not gray, Claire pegged him at over eighty. His head swayed from side to side as the orderlies slid the stretcher out of the ambulance and onto the gurney. Beneath the once-white blanket, his right leg was grotesquely swollen. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. A Fierce Radiance is set in New York, at the onset of World War II. Talk about America during wartime. How was the war a part of the lives of Claire and Charlie Shipley, Jamie Stanton, Edward Rutherford, Bill Shipley, and other Americans? Did any of your relatives serve in the war? What about on the home front—do you know how your relatives' lives were affected during that time?
2. Contemporary Americans are also living during a time of war. How have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq impacted Americans today? Contrast the two times. Do you think Americans today feel as part of the war effort as they did in the 1940s? Explain.
3. What is your opinion of Claire Shipley? Do you think she was like other women of her time? How did her background influence her choices, including her work? How did her career shape her outlook on the events that were happening around her? Claire was a woman trying to succeed in a man's world, and she exploited her femininity when she needed to. Do you think this was this a sign of power, or of weakness?
4. Before reading A Fierce Radiance, did you have any idea that penicillin and other antibiotics were discovered less than a hundred years ago? How did these medical miracles change our lives? Have any members of your families been saved by antibiotics? Are we too reliant on drugs like antibiotics as well as antibacterial household products today? Will these drugs always be as effective as they have been? How do you think can we extend the potency of the drugs we have available to us?
5. Do you think 21st-century Americans take their good health and advanced medical care for granted? Could you imagine living or raising a child when the simplest of conditions—a flu, a scraped knee, a cat scratch, a blister from tight shoes—could lead to death? How do you think you would cope living with such knowledge? Have we as a nation, forgotten the transformation that the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines have made in our lives?
6. The government lackey, Andrew Barnett, tells Claire that there is no morality during war. Do you agree with this? Is "winning at any cost"—if it includes murder and letting a killer go free—a victory?

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by csparks (see profile) 09/24/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Lauren Belfer:

Dear Reader,

I’m delighted that my novel A FIERCE RADIANCE has been published in paperback.

My first novel, CITY OF LIGHT, was a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book as well as a #1 Book Sense pick. CITY OF LIGHT remains a favorite with book clubs.

A FIERCE RADIANCE is a World War II love story and thriller set against the secret wartime battle to develop the arsenal of weapons – weapons of life – which have come to be known as antibiotics. The novel focuses on one woman, Claire Shipley, a photojournalist for LIFE magazine, a strong and compelling figure who struggles both for professional fulfillment and to raise her son during a time of upheaval. From the dazzling streets of Manhattan to the battlefields of North Africa, A FIERCE RADIANCE illuminates the struggle of one family stay together amid the passions, betrayals and triumphs of war.

I’m honored to report that A FIERCE RADIANCE has been named a Washington Post Best Novel of the Year and an NPR Best Mystery of the Year.

Many thanks,

Lauren Belfer


“Enthralling….an especially compelling read.”

Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank

Book Club Recommendations

Serve "ration" snacks -- no sugar, no eggs, no chocolate, no butter, no coffee
by [email protected] (see profile) 07/16/11
We opted for pretzels and mint tea. Try a "Ritz cracker apple pie." Bring an eyebrow pencil to try your hand at drawing a nylon stocking seam on your own leg -- this was hilarious!
A woman who is ahead of her time observes the dramatic development of new antibiotics.
by csparks (see profile) 09/24/10
We meet at one another's houses and usually everyone brings a dish to share. We have some fine eating and fascinating book discussions which we relate to our own lives. We do not always agree but all are good debaters and therein lies the interest.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "You can die from a scratch"by Becky H. (see profile) 07/16/11

We learned a lot about how dramatically life changed with a the availablity of antibiotics. Life was scary before penicillin! The war looms always in the background. Life photographers took an amazing... (read more)

  "An enjoyable read"by Donna N. (see profile) 04/06/11

All the members of our book club liked this book and we had a great discussion session about it. We all recommend it.

  "A Fierce Radiance"by Anne H. (see profile) 10/27/10

The subject matter of this book was very interesting and worthy or a good discussion. However the love story woven throughout the story was a little to much.

  "A fierce Radiance"by Connie S. (see profile) 09/24/10

This book contained an intriguing ethics argument. We saw the compromises that people had to make in times of stress. They were difficult and similar to those we have had to make. Histori... (read more)

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