Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kate's Updates: Fresh on the Shelves From Harper


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.

Kate's notes on the book:

Back in 1999 Belfer blew out the stops with her first novel, City of Light. It was the cover of the NYTBR (“An ingenious first novel. . . . Alive with historical figures who mingle seamlessly with the fictional characters. . . . A huge, sprawling portrait of the United States at the turn of the last century.”). It was a BOMC Main Selection, and USA Today called it “breathtaking in its achievement.”

More than ten years later, here’s act two. City of Light looked at the transformation of American life that came with the electrification of Buffalo for the Pan American Games in 1901. In A Fierce Radiance, Belfer looks at another singularly transformative moment in American history—the discovery of antibiotics.

This is a perfect read for fans of Nancy Horan (author of the best selling Loving Frank), who offers this blurb: “Lauren Belfer’s story of love in the time of penicillin is enthralling. A Fierce Radiance shines with fascinating detail about a moment in American history we have mostly forgotten, when penicillin was new, miraculous, and in short supply. Belfer’s powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read.”

Booklist gives it a starred review: “Belfer combines life-and-death scenarios, romance, murder, and wartime reality at home and abroad, while taking a stab at industrialists who profit by dubious means and salve their consciences through philanthropy; and she warns that resistance to antibiotics could return us ‘to the era when otherwise healthy adults died from a scratch on the knee.’ An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history.”

And from Publisher's Weekly: “Penicillin operates as the source of romance, murder, and melodrama in Belfer’s evocative WWII–era novel. . . . Belfer handily exploits Claire’s photo shoots to add historical texture to the book, and the well-researched scenes bring war-time New York City to life, capturing the anxiety-ridden period.”

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