The incredible true story of the Radium Girls, the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind. (via Goodreads)
I received an eARC from Netgalley and the publisher, Sourcebooks, in exchange for an honest review.
The first thing I fell in love with in The Radium Girls was the cover. It is beautiful, evocative and accurate.
The second thing I fell in love with was the author’s note, which is a phrase I never thought I would say. Kate Moore is exactly the kind of person I would want telling my story, especially if my story were as rage-inducing and heartbreaking as the dial painters’ story is.
I’d like to add some trigger warnings to this post, because this book was hard for me to read: death, body horror, cancer, gaslighting, tumors, broken bones, bones falling out of things, chronic pain, radiation.
The Radium Girls was told in a style called narrative nonfiction – it’s nonfiction in its entirety, but told in a story-like format. I saw from several reviews that this writing style put readers off of it, and I can understand that. However, I thought that narrative nonfiction was truly the only way to tell this story and make it work to show who these girls were, in addition to what they went through.
Radium had been known to be harmful since 1901. Every death since was unnecessary.
There were more than 50 pages of endnotes in the ARC, all noting where information used throughout the book came from. Most of the information was from family recollections, saved letters and the girls’ court testimony. Moore did reference the other two books that have been written about this topic, though.
Through their friendships, through their refusal to give up and through their sheer spirit, the radium girls left us all an extraordinary legacy. They did not die in vain.
They made every second count.
This was a four star read for me, because the narrative style took me a while to get into, but it probably deserves five stars. You can buy a copy of your own on Amazon, Indiebound or at your favorite bookseller!
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.