I received this book from Net Galley back in the fall. It is the true story of the women who worked in a watch factory, using radium to illuminate the dials. These young women suffered horrible effects from ingesting the radium as they licked their paint brushes:
The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.
Kate Moore is a Sunday Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2005 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.
Not surprisingly, this is a highly upsetting read. I had nightmares. But – it’s a true story and these women should not be forgotten. To think that they were told all was safe and it wasn’t, along with feeling that they were fortunate to be in these jobs that eventually killed them – well, this was one read that I won’t forget any time soon.
Some of my theater friends were in a fantastic musical theater production of Radium Girls here in the Boston area and won several awards for it. I recommend it if you come across it. I don’t know if this is the same play as the one cited above.
Thank you for my review e-copy.
I had heard about this book, but couldn’t get my hot little hands on a copy. Then at BEA I had the chance to get a SIGNED copy from Katherine Howe herself! I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to read it when I returned.
Pub Day is finally here for this great book (July 1).
CONVERSION centers on the character of teenager Colleen Rowley, a senior in high school at a prestigious private girls’ school. One day a classmate falls ill with mysterious symptoms, and soon several classmates are sick: all with odd symptoms, all seniors. Between the CDC, the community, and the media, Colleen’s school becomes a bit of a circus. Then Colleen receives texts from an unknown sender urging her to read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. What is going on? And can Colleen figure it out before she, too, falls ill?
I really enjoyed reading this book! Interspersed between Colleen’s story are chapters from the 1700’s and Ann Putnam, one of the girls from the Salem Witch Trials, confesses her story of the Salem girls to her minister. Ann Putnam is a critical character, and in modern day, Colleen herself is studying Ann as a key to what actually went on in 1692 and what is happening now. There are some other side plots as well, though they all tie together, with the biggest one being one of Colleen’s friend’s heartbreak over an affair with a teacher.
CONVERSION has a tension which builds and builds, until things truly start to spiral out of control. I thought this was a great read for both older YA and for adults. If you have a daughter in high school, you should read this book, just to remind yourself what a pressure cooker that time can be. A lot of Colleen’s pressure is self-imposed (e.g. the quest to be valedictorian), and reading this reminded me of what that felt like, even though I graduated 30 years ago.
Highly recommended! I’m so glad I was able to get this at BEA and was able to meet Ms. Howe. She herself is descended from those involved in the Salem Witch Trials, and history lives on in her veins and in her work.