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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout Paperback – Illustrated, August 4, 2015
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Frequently bought together
“[A] sumptuously illustrated visual biography….Radioactive is an incisive look at science’s greatest partnership.” -- Vogue
“One of the most beautiful books-as-object that I’ve ever seen.” -- Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
“[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
“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
From the Back Cover
In 1891, 24 year old Marie, née Marya Sklodowska, moved from Warsaw to Paris, where she found work in the laboratory of Pierre Curie, a scientist engaged in research on heat and magnetism. They fell in love. They took their honeymoon on bicycles. They expanded the periodic table, discovering two new elements with startling properties, radium and polonium. They recognized radioactivity as an atomic property, heralding the dawn of a new scientific era. They won the Nobel Prize. Newspapers mythologized the couple's romance, beginning articles on the Curies with "Once upon a time . . . " Then, in 1906, Pierre was killed in a freak accident. Marie continued their work alone. She won a second Nobel Prize in 1911, and fell in love again, this time with the married physicist Paul Langevin. Scandal ensued. Duels were fought.
In the century since the Curies began their work, we've struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss links these contentious questions to a love story in 19th Century Paris.
Radioactive draws on Redniss's original reporting in Asia, Europe and the United States, her interviews with scientists, engineers, weapons specialists, atomic bomb survivors, and Marie and Pierre Curie's own granddaughter.
Whether young or old, scientific novice or expert, no one will fail to be moved by Lauren Redniss's eerie and wondrous evocation of one of history's most intriguing figures.
- ASIN : 0062416162
- Publisher : Dey Street Books; Illustrated edition (August 4, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 208 pages
- Item Weight : 1.67 pounds
- Dimensions : 8 x 0.59 x 11 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #105,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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By Andrea Gehrett on August 11, 2020
1. Biographical - It brings Marie to life and illuminates the many chapters of her life journey.
2. Scientific - It illustrates the discovery of a whole unknown class of elements, the dangers and how they ultimately improved our lives.
3. Artistic - The full-page illustrations are done in a fresh, creative new medium that evokes the mystery of newly-discovered x-rays.
4. Philosophical - The reflections on how Marie changed our lives are melancholy but uplifting and thought-provoking.
I will be passing this book on to my daughter, a literature professor, for her enjoyment.
The minute I saw this book, I knew it was a book that I had to read. If nothing else, I wanted to see if I understood radiation and atomic particles and nuclear energy any better this side of life.
Even though this book was a National Book Award Finalist, I could not find it at any of the seven libraries to which I have cards. I finally broke down and bought it.
It was a worthwhile purchase. I'd classify it as a graphic novel, a picture book for grownups, with brilliant illustrations that add to the text.
Lauren Redniss, who wrote the text and created the illustrations, tells the story of Marie and Pierre Curie, a story of the power and destruction that came with the discovery of radiation.
One of my favorite reads of this year.
She starts by apologizing to Marie Curie for ignoring her insistence that "there is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life." Not only does she make such a connection, she glories in it. Look at the chapter headings of the first part: Symmetry, Magnetism, Fusion; scientific terms, but also personal ones. In the opening chapter, Redniss portrays the separate lives of Pierre and Marie in symmetry, on opposite pages, before showing the magnetism that drew them together as a couple, and the fusion that produced a child. But she also tells us of Pierre's work on the symmetry of crystals, and Marie's on magnetism and radiation. The question of atomic fusion (and fission) lies far in the future.
But Redniss goes there too. At the very end of the first part, amid drawings of Marie and Pierre embracing in their laboratory, she has the words: "The new science needed a name." Turn the page to a double spread glowing in a muted cloudburst, containing only the words, "I coined the term radioactivity." Then look again, and you realize that the cloudburst is really an atomic blast -- not at all in your face, but lurking there as a threat.
Although the longer second part continues with the story of the Curies, it strikes off sparks in many other directions: spiritualism, for example, the dancer Loïe Fuller, a list of famous Poles. A photograph of a man receiving radium treatment for a tumor in 1920 is juxtaposed with the first-hand account of a tumor survivor in 2001. Soon, we are jumping to Chernobyl, the Manhattan Project, and Three-Mile Island, and each time Redniss finds some unexpected witness to bring her message home. An FBI surveillance report; photos of the mutant zinnias and roses found near Harrisburg; the reports of a biologist studying wildlife in the Ukraine. One of the most effective spreads in the book is also the simplest, a black paper cutout used by a survivor of Hiroshima to show how her father's blackened skin peeled away at a touch.
"A tale of love and fallout," says the subtitle. Nothing is predictable, neither the great discoveries nor their unexpected consequences, and love is the least logical thing of all. So by jumping around in subject and time, Redniss is only celebrating the power of surprise. She is thinking outside the box, way outside. The skill with which she balances the glory of the Curies' discoveries and their continued benefits against their terrible consequences would be remarkable even in a book that was all text. But the illustrations offer a further layer of unpredictability. In almost no case does she simply illustrate the action; her drawings are bold, somewhat expressionist, even disturbing. I can't say that I like them as art, but as a constantly shifting matrix for a subject that refuses to be pinned down, their effect is powerful indeed.
My only real complaint is that patches on the hard cover are printed in slightly raised ink like fine sandpaper, that you fear coming off on your hands. But close the cover and put out the lights, and you will see their purpose: the book literally glows in the dark!
Top reviews from other countries
The author uses artistic techniques and images to present the Curies and their work and follows several strands of inquiry and thought,including the consequences of their work. There are some very striking and unusual correlations too.For example the fact that Pierre was born on the Rue Cuvier,named after the man who believed evolution to have advanced by catastrophes.lauren Redniss remarks that Pierre Curie's death was itself a kind of catastrophe.She might have mentioned that on the day of his fatal accident San Francisco was also struck by a terrible earthquake.'
She does not duck the Curies' interest in spiritualism either ,or the fact of the 'Mmerry Widow ' health mine in the US.
The last part of Marie's life may be a little sparsely treated and Frederick Joliot hardly figures.The cartoon picture of Irene however catches her gaze perfectly.
If you know what you are not expecting with this book ,(viz.an orthodox biography),it is excellent .
I just found the other day (as this is my forever bedside table book) that the cover glows in the dark.