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 Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

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

When I read the premise of this novel, I knew that I needed to read this novel. I may not have ever read any of H.P. Lovecraft’s works but I know of his reputation as a great science fiction and horror writer. Lovecraft has inspired so many authors with his work and I thought reading a novel about him would be just fascinating, especially when it is set as a literary thriller.

Marina Willett has a problem: her husband, Charlie, is obsessed with H.P.Lovecraft. Charlie is a writer, who likes to bring the lives of various people into the limelight. And now, he has decided to do so with the life of H.P. Lovecraft, starting with the time when the famous author had lived for 2 months with a fay teenage fan named Robert Barlow. What was their relationship like? Were they friends or was there something more? Just when Charlie thinks he has got the answer, a new scandal erupts and he disappears. The police say it is a suicide but Marina knows better. And she is going to do everything in her power to learn the truth.

At first, I was drawn into the story with its detailed introduction into the life of Lovecraft and the scandal of his time spent with Barlow. While it was interesting to read about, I soon began to wonder when the story was going to kick in. At the midpoint, I started to see some direction and discover how Charlie got involved in this story. But this glimpse also vanished fairly quickly, as the author spent countless chapters recounting the experiences of Barlow, Lovecraft, Spinks, and a whole host of other characters. Pretty soon, I got lost in the details of the story – and not in a good way. I came into this story with one expectation and left this story completely clueless. I’m sure I missed something somewhere but for the life of me, I couldn’t fathom the point of this story. I felt as if nothing meaningful was ever really said throughout this entire novel, and it left me disappointed. There are some raving reviews for this novel on Goodreads, so maybe I am one of the few for whom this novel just didn’t work. If you like literary fiction and Lovecraft, then I’m sure you would enjoy this novel!

Happy reading ~

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Since I was a child, I have always been complimented on being a voracious reader. Naturally, I wanted to continue to impress others so when I was recommended this book, I seized the chance. The problem was, I was only 13. The book seemed boring and nothing made sense. So, I reluctantly gave up on it. In high school, I chanced by it again. This time, I was determined to read it and understand it so that I could at least see why so many people love this book. And this time, I finished it.

The general theme of the story is about family. But saying this would be overly simplifying it. It is a story that shows both the breakdown and the building of a family and all of the events that could lead to such things happening. The novel starts off with a scene of betrayal: Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (Stiva) has been discovered to be unfaithful to his wife, Dolly, who now wishes to leave him. When Stiva receives a letter informing him that his sister, Anna Karenina (who is married), will be visiting him, he is relieved; she may be able to convince his wife to forgive him.
Meanwhile, Stiva’s friend, Lenin, has traveled from the countryside to Moscow to propose to Dolly’s younger sister, Kitty, whom he has loved for quite a while. However, to his dismay, he discovers that she is already in love with and is being courted by someone else, a military officer by the name of Vronsky. He decides to take his time and pursue her anyways.

At this time, Anna Karenina has arrived in Moscow and as she disembarks from the train, she happens to meet Vronsky, who is immediately smitten by her. And Anna, although remembering that she is a married woman with a son, cannot help but be drawn to Vronsky.

So begins a love affair that will shake the lives of all the individuals in the novel.

When I read it the second time in high school, I absolutely loved it. The story is so complex and there are so many characters to fall in love with. Lenin’s sincerity, Kitty’s childishness, and the selfish yet compelling love story between Vronsky and Anna will pull you in. I will admit that there were times when characters discussed politics and although it may seem unnecessary, it stands to describe the personalities and thought processes of each of the characters, which is an amazing feature of this novel. I love how believable and ALIVE these characters are; human emotions are captured beautifully in this novel.

Read this novel. Take your time and go through it thoroughly; let yourself have the full reading experience. Don’t skim, don’t miss anything. This novel is worth every minute.

Happy reading ~