- Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout
- Lauren Redniss
- 208 pages
- Publication Date: December 2010
- Publisher: Harper Collins
- Source: Library
Three times before her death, Marya Sktodowska would find, then swiftly lose, a cherished lover. The gray-eyed girl was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the year chemists and orchid cultivator Alfred Nobel patented dynamite. She would become famous as Marie Curie, twice winning the prize Nobel established with his explosive fortune.
After reading Radioactive, I’m starting to realize that I don’t read enough books about truly great people. There are lots of non-fiction books that are published every year about great events that happen to people but after reading about all the things that Marie Curie did in her lifetime, I’m starting to think I need to change what type of non-fiction I read.
Marie Curie was an amazing person. As a child she lost her eldest sister and mother to typhus and tuberculosis. At the age of seventeen she left home to become a governess so she could save money to further her education in Paris. As an adult she was a dedicated wife, mother, and scientist spending hours in her lab every day. She was awarded the Nobel Prize twice in her lifetime, first in physics with her husband then in chemistry. She was a curious and determined person who spent her lifetime learning and also helping others.
Readers also learn about Pierre Curie and his childhood as a dreamer who many people thought wouldn’t amount to much. The older Pierre became, the more he focused and by the time he was seventeen he had graduated from college. Throughout the book Redniss goes back and forth between the two as they become collaborators in every aspect of their lives and how the couples’ discoveries changed humanity forever.
Not only does the author give readers a biography about the two Curies but she also tells us how the Curies’ discoveries play a role in life since then. There are accounts by people who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima, quotes about Irving S. Lowen who worked on the Manhattan Project for a short amount of time and then died mysteriously, information about the atomic testing done by the U.S. government in Nevada along with the craze going on in that same area by people who would throw parties to watch the bombings from nearby cities. Add all of this information in with the Curies and their life and you have one hell of a biography that’s the perfect blend of biography, history, art, and science.
A quick word about the art featured in this book. Much of the artwork used in Radioactive is made by a cyanotype printing process that gives a haunting look. It’s pretty different from what you would normally find in a graphic novel but works though it takes time to get used to the style.
The great thing about Radioactive is that it’s a book that would fit a diverse audience: the reader who loves comic books, the nonfiction junkie, or just a reader with an interest in science. My Goodreads rating for Radioactive is 5 out of 5 stars. It’s easily one of the best nonfiction reads of 2011.
Yes I know that the quote at the beginning of my review leaves you wanting to know more about the three loves of Marie Curie’s life, but I refuse to spoil the story.