ashevillelibrarian, April 6, 2011 (view all comments by ashevillelibrarian)
It's a rare person who can deal ably in both words and image. That's why comic books traditionally had both writers and artists. It's hard to find the total package. Lauren Redniss ties text and art together in a way that seems totally in service of the story -- not cute or contrived -- but poetic and natural.
I became a fan of her graphic reportage for the New York Times, and her two books have not disappointed. Century Girl wove archival imagery together with original drawings and text to tell a charming true story, and Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie is masterful. Every page is frameable and evocative. Truly a book to experience in print, turning each page was a delight.
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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
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In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn't her crime that shocked the nationand#8212;it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancand#233;e Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.
Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letterand#8212;and her fatherand#8217;s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancand#233;eand#8217;s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jailand#8212;including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of "the finest men in Memphis" declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.
Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenesand#8212;painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.
In 1891, 24 year old Marie, nEe 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.
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