17 May 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Radium Halos by Shelley Stout

I purchased this book a year ago, but it kept getting pushed to the side. I was on a flight and needed something to read and saw this on my kindle and decided it was time to read it. I don’t remember much of the rest of the flights I took that day. This is a fantastically absorbing novel that pulls you into the world of the radium dial painters not only through history but through the fictional story that the author has created for us.

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really know much about the radium dial (well, I know about radium!). I knew something happened and I knew people died but not that they were ingesting this stuff! I actually learned a lot about that situation and how sad and out of control it was. I love when I enjoy a book and learn something and don’t feel like I’m having information shoved down my throat. Thank you to the author for presenting information in such a matter. Good for her.

The fictional part of the story was also very well done. I will admit that I was a little confused as to why the secrecy after all these years, but having said that, it didn’t detract from the story at all. I loved how it all pulled together. From what I can gather, this is the first novel by this author that I’ve been able to find and it’s such an amazing first effort – heck, had I not went looking, I would have sworn it was from a seasoned author. She manages to bring you into Helen’s life and and into the factory and subsequent years. I felt so connected to the characters that I found myself trying to talk to a few of them, trying to make them see things MY. I’m sure my fellow passengers thought I was completely crazy.

This book is highly recommended for those that enjoy not only historical fiction, but also good general fiction. Unless you only read one genre, this is something you would probably enjoy. It goes on my must read for the year, wish I had read it sooner!

Radium Halos is historical fiction based on the true events of the Radium Dial Painters, a group of female factory workers who, in the early 1920s, contracted radiation poisoning from painting luminous watch and clock dials with radium paint. Our narrator is Helen Waterman, a 65-year-old mental patient who worked at the factory when she was 16. She tells us her story through flashbacks, slowly revealing her past, the loved ones she’s lost, and the dangerous secrets she’s kept all these years. Includes a Foreword by Leonard Grossman, son of the attorney for the Radium Dial painters.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book count for 2011: 28

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