Kate Moore

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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the-radium

I greatly enjoyed this book. Reminding me a little bit of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and John Grisham’s novels all rolled into one. “The Radium Girls” chronicles the true account of the Radium poisoning the dial painters, working throughout the United States, contracted by working with luminous paint.

The story begins by introducing the reader to all of the young ladies who worked at the New Jersey radium plant. The author gives a short description of each woman including their general personality and looks. While this part did get a little tedious to read, it only lasts for about a chapter and helps to paint a picture of each lady in the reader’s head. This also is a nice tribute to the women as each one receives a short description, even if they weren’t major players in the events that unfolded. The book also chronicles the women in Illinois who were working for another company using luminous paint. Later in the book there is a chapter introducing these women, but as there weren’t as many of them the descriptions aren’t as tedious.

The story then follows the women as they paint the luminous watch faces in the factories. The author talks about how the pay was fantastic, the work was glamorous (I mean, the women glowed after spending the day painting with radium), and they worked in close proximity to their friends. It sounds like the ideal job; until years later when the women became ill with radium poisoning and started dying off in droves. This is by far the saddest part of the book- reading about what happened to the women and the horrors they faced as their bodies decayed around them. Yet, although extremely sad and disturbing, there is a somewhat upbeat swing to the story as the women begin to realize the connection and fight back against the companies.

At this point in the story (about halfway through) I really started to be reminded of John Grisham novels. The trials the girls (and their lawyers) faced, the way all representatives of the companies behaved, and the constant up and down action all felt more like a novel than real life. Throughout reading you will continually find yourself appalled that this actually happened, let alone happened so recently. You will also find yourself unable to stop reading, caring so much for the characters that you feel you need to know how they all came out of this ordeal.

The writing in this book is straightforward, descriptive, and polished. Moore obviously understands the fundamentals of writing good nonfiction and includes the perfect balance of emotion and cold, hard facts. I will definitely be looking for more works by this author because I greatly enjoyed her writing style.

If you enjoyed “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” then you will certainly enjoy this book. “The Radium Girls” is a disturbing and upsetting, yet deeply powerful book that will leave the reader admiring the young women and thinking about the story for days after finishing. Highly recommend.
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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