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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061351327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061351327
  • ASIN: 0061351326
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: Lauren Redniss’s brilliant biography-in-collage is an astounding portrait of Marie and Pierre Curie, the husband-and-wife team who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Broken into seven chapters (introduced with scientific terms that hint at the stories to come), Radioactive fuses quotes from the scientists themselves with ones from the Curies’ own granddaughter, engineering and weapons experts, and even atomic bomb survivors that form a most interesting and informative narrative. Redniss’s styling doesn’t end with the way she tells the story: Radioactive is as visually stunning as it is factually rich. She jumps from black-and-white sketches to vibrantly colored depictions of the young couple’s courtship, collaborations, and eventually Pierre’s unexpected death. Within the stark pages of the chapter titled “Isolation,” the reader feels Marie’s loss; then in “Exposure” we watch as she falls in love again--this time under more controversial circumstances. Despite personal challenges, Marie continued to be ambitious and eventually became the first female professor at the Sorbonne, winning a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In Radioactive, Redniss shows a similar determination. Through her moody, evocative collages, she captures the drama of the Curies’ lives and their contributions to science and medicine, sending the reader on a one-of-a-kind historical and biographical journey that any curious mind will appreciate. --Jessica Schein


A Look Inside Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout
Click on the photos below to open larger images.

Despite the tight quarters in his lab, Pierre Curie managed to find room for the delicate and grave foreign student. Marie Sklodowska and Pierre Curie wed on July 26, 1895. In 1900 Pierre strapped a tube of radium against his arm for ten hours. “To his joy, a lesion appeared,” reported his daughter Eve.

Review

“[Radioactive is] a deeply unusual and forceful thing to have in your hands. Ms. Redniss’s text is long, literate and supple…Her drawings are both vivid and ethereal…Radioactive is serious science and brisk storytelling. The word ‘luminous’ is a critic’s cliché, to be avoided at all costs, but it fits.” (New York Times)

“One of the most beautiful books-as-object that I’ve ever seen.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love)

“[A] sumptuously illustrated visual biography….Radioactive is an incisive look at science’s greatest partnership.” (Vogue)

“[An] excellent new book.” (Robert Krulwich, NPR)

“Radioactive is quite unlike any book I have ever read—part history, part love story, part art work and all parts sheer imaginative genius.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

“Absolutely dazzling. Lauren Redniss has created a book that is both vibrant history and a work of art. Like radium itself, Radioactive glows with energy.” (Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

“Radioactive offer innumerable wonders. Colors suddenly bloom into tremendous feeling, history contracts into a pair of elongated figures locked in an embrace, then expands again in an explosive rush of words. In this wholly original book about passion and discovery Lauren Redniss has invented her own unique form.” (Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love)

More About the Author

Lauren Redniss is the author of Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies. A graduate of Brown University and the School of Visual Arts, she is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, which nominated her work for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2008-2009 she was a Fellow at the New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers, where she completed work on Radioactive. Lauren Redniss is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and teaches at the Parsons School of Design. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

This book, through its art, provides a depth of feeling to their story that I have never found anywhere else.
Jurate
I'm not especially interested in science and knew nothing about the Curies before reading this book, but nevertheless I highly recommend it.
Miss Doster
Ms. Redniss's art coupled with the love story she tells make this much more than an art book and much more than a biography of the two.
KC

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 141 people found the following review helpful By m.z. on December 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first review I've ever been compelled to write. I also bought "Radioactive" after reading the New York Times' glowing praise. I couldn't put it down. After I read it, I couldn't go to sleep. I promptly ordered a dozen copies for friends, and wished I had the means to buy this book for everyone I know. This book changed my perspective on art, history, science and storytelling.

First, the little things: the author created her own type based on the title pages of the New York Public Library; through evident hard work and determination, she tracked down astonishing anecdotes, photographs, gravestone rubbings, x-rays, and little known facts; the bibliography includes a breathtaking spectrum of sources, from interviews, lectures, biographies (in English and French), scientific journals, classified documents, correspondence, maps, notebooks, newspapers, scientific society proceedings; the illustrations are stunning. What unfolds on pages 83 - 85 is profoundly affecting and viscerally unforgettable. I am embarrassed by the number of superlatives in this paragraph.

Now, the big thing: this book, like the story it tells, is a miracle.

The reviewer below is entitled to his opinion. But may I offer a counterpoint. On page 94 Marie recalls a day in the meadows with her family, picking flowers. And there is an illustration of buttercups. Pages later, when Marie learns that Pierre is dead: "The flowers he had picked in the country remained fresh on the table." And then, let's say for curiosity's sake, you flip to the Notes and see this citation: "flowers...on the table." Curie Archives, microfilm, 4300.

Perhaps you will "learn" "more" from a Wikipedia article.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By KC on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Radioactive by Lauren Redniss is one of the most creative, innovative books I've ever seen. I first read about the book in an amazing review in the New York Times, then heard Ms. Redniss on the Leonard Lopate Show. I bought the book right after that based mostly on the visual appeal of the art she has created. I was even more blown away by the research and insight she writes about regarding Marie and Pierre Curie. Ms. Redniss's art coupled with the love story she tells make this much more than an art book and much more than a biography of the two. Highly recomended to people who love visually stunning books as well as those interested in love stories, science and biographies.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth B. Sizer II on January 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure to whom or how I'd recommend it... totally unlike anything I've ever read. It's either the world's most artistic biography of physicists or the most physics-y art collection or the most romantic physics text. I'd hate to be a bookstore owner trying to decide where to put it.

The first half is filled with excitement and discovery - new elements and new romance.
The second half is much more somber, to put it mildly.

P.S.
Last night, I put the book down, turned off the lights and discovered: The book GLOWS IN THE DARK!
(An extra star for that)
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By genesrus on December 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not for me!

I love science, love the stories of scientists and their lives and was given this book for Christmas 2011 after a review on NPR. I found the book hard to read - disjointed. The book is about 8.5 x 11, is large and is as much about some very creative artwork as it is about the Curies. The font used has an in interesting story behind it, again creative, but not the most legible. The actual text could be crammed into about 20 pages with a 12 pt. Garamond font. The book is beautifully published here in the USA! I know, I know - I'm not being very creative and perhaps missing the point when I view this as strictly a book about two of my heroes and their science. I would strongly suggest using the look inside feature on Amazon to get a sense of the layout of the book before buying.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There are exciting, original books, and then there is "Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout" --- a book so astonishingly inventive that the cover is both a joke and a metaphor.

"Radioactive" glows in the dark.

And that's just the start of the charm and beauty and high intelligence of an oversized book that mixes text and art, documents and narrative, to tell a story that starts with the story of the Curies and then radiates outward.

Image-and-text --- like a non-fiction graphic novel?

Sure, if the non-fiction graphic novel had been drawn by Matisse and Warhol and researched and written by John Didion. The author's description should be the start of you moving closer to the screen and reading more slowly: "a visual book about invisible things --- in this case, radioactivity and love."

"Radioactive" is such a bitch slap to traditional thinking about books and biography and the subject of radiation that --- the metaphor is inevitable --- it really has no half-life. This is a reading/viewing experience you'll never forget. And when you need to give a book to someone who has "everything," it's the obvious choice.

The subtitle --- "love and fallout" --- is the hint that this is a book of mystery and magic, for Marie and Pierre Curie, though two, shared a love so deep they lived and thought and worked as one. And then, as we consider what happened to them, and what their discoveries have meant to the planet.....

But the core of the book is the story of these two great scientists. Marya Sklodowska, a brilliant student from Poland, came to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. In 1894, she met Pierre Curie, an iconoclast who taught physics and chemistry. How deep was their love?
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