The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Ever since I read Room, I have been a fan of this author’s work. I have been anxiously waiting ¬†for this novel to be released and I was lucky enough to find a copy as I was passing by my local library! I sat down and read this novel in one sitting, and if that isn’t testament to how amazing this story is then I don’t know what is!

An English nurse is called into a small Irish village on an unusual mission: she is to observe a miracle. 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell has been fasting for the lat 4 months and has been subsisting on simply water and “manna from heaven”, as she insists. In order to verify these claims, Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is sent to live in Anna’s village. The longer Lib stays there, the more she suspects that Anna’s fast may not simply be expression of faith but rather an attempt at slow murder.

This book was a compelling read that caught me from the beginning and held me all the way until the end. I don’t know much about Ireland, and I’m not familiar with its religious fervor, so that was a very interesting view to read about. I liked that Lib, who is the protagonist in this story, allows the reader to approach the religious fervor of the people with a healthy dose of cynicism. The journey begins slowly, as we get to know more about Lib and Anna, and all of the other characters. While most of the side characters don’t change throughout the story, it works well and provides the structure to keep the story in check. I love the relationship between Lib and Anna, and how it evolves as the story progresses. The first half of the book allows the reader to become well acquainted with the time period and the Irish culture, while also building up to the pivotal question of why Anna is fasting. The second half is also not as action-packed but the tension is overwhelming and undeniable; I was biting my nails and I could hear my heart beating faster with every page I read. I needed to know what Lib was going to do about Anna and I just had to know what the motive was behind the fast. I absolutely loved the ending; it was better than anything I could have hoped for and nicely wrapped up the story. This is a fantastic historical thriller, that is sure to delight everyone!

Happy reading ~