A Fierce Radiance
is a sweeping blend of fact and fiction, full of authentic details about the time period and the subject. I was impressed by how much information Lauren Belfer was able to pack into her novel, not just about penicillin, but also concerning New York during World War Two, the history of Life
magazine, and the Rockefeller family's philanthropy. In spite of all this information, it's presented to the reader quite naturally, without feeling like exposition. Belfer achieves this effect by focusing on two lead characters: Claire, a photojournalist who is reporting on the development of penicillin, so that we learn all about this miracle drug along with her; and James, a researcher at New York's Rockerfeller Institute. Living in an era when people routinely died from a scrape on the knee, both Claire and James are intimately...
Beyond the Book
The Rockefeller Institute
The Rockefeller Institute features prominently in A Fierce Radiance
. While Dr. James Stanton and the other researchers depicted in the novel are fictional, the Institute is a real place dedicated to biomedical research.
It was founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller Sr., philanthropist and owner of Standard Oil, after his grandson died from scarlet fever. The Institute was the first research center in America to focus on cures for the major diseases of the day: tuberculosis, diphtheria and typhoid...