Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light comes a compelling, richly detailed tale of passion and intrigue set in New York City during the tumultuous early days of World War II.
Claire Shipley is a single mother haunted by the death of her young daughter and by her divorce years ago. She is also an ambitious photojournalist, and in the anxious days after Pearl Harbor, the talented Life magazine reporter finds herself on top of one of the nation's most important stories. In the bustling labs of New York City's renowned Rockefeller Institute, some of the country's brightest doctors and researchers are racing to find a cure that will save the lives of thousands of wounded American soldiers and countless others—a miraculous new drug they call penicillin. Little does Claire suspect how much the story will change her own life when the work leads to an intriguing romance.
Though Claire has always managed to keep herself separate from the subjects she covers, this story touches her deeply, stirring memories of her daughter's sudden illness and death—a loss that might have been prevented by this new "miracle drug." And there is James Stanton, the shy and brilliant physician who coordinates the institute's top secret research for the military. Drawn to this dedicated, attractive man and his work, Claire unexpectedly finds herself falling in love. But Claire isn't the only one interested in the secret development of this medicine. Her long-estranged father, Edward Rutherford, a self-made millionaire, understands just how profitable a new drug like penicillin could be. When a researcher at the institute dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes become starkly clear: a murder has been committed to obtain these lucrative new drugs. With lives and a new love hanging in the balance, Claire will put herself at the center of danger to find a killer—no matter what price she may have to pay.
Lauren Belfer dazzled readers with her debut novel, City of Light, a New York Times notable book of the year. In this highly anticipated follow-up, she deftly captures the uncertainty and spirit, the dreams and hopes, of a nation at war. A sweeping tale of love and betrayal, intrigue and idealism, A Fierce Radiance is an ambitious and deeply engaging novel from an author of immense talent.
“Belfer combines life-and-death scenarios, romance, murder, and wartime reality at home and abroad, while taking a stab at industrialists who profit by dubious means and salve their consciences through philanthropy. . . . An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history.” Booklist (starred review)
“A FIERCE RADIANCE shines with fascinating detail about a moment in American history we have mostly forgotten, when penicillin was new, miraculous, and in short supply. Belfers powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read.” Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
"I lost myself whole-heartedly in [Eugénie's] story, and would have followed her down any narrow alley, into any candlelit room, just to know what happened, to stay back there and to delay coming home." —Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
"A sweeping, fascinating epic full of drama and beauty."—Publishers Weekly
"The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is as much a personal meditation on womens emotional and professional tradeoffs as it is a sweeping saga of the decadent Paris that spawned Madame Bovary. … Dont read this fiercely intelligent novel if you simply want a good love story dressed up in period clothes. Read it for the complex sexual politics, lush language, and mirror onto our own excessive, heedless times."—Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger
"The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is an arresting tale of what it meant to survive as a woman in 19th-century France. With spare, powerful prose Carole DeSanti's debut novel paints an unflinching portrait of love and loss against a landscape of Parisian decadence." — Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches
"Epic times make for epic books. The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is both sweeping in scope and painstaking in detail. Eugénie R.'s story, from naive goosegirl to resilient survivor, makes for wonderful, suspenseful reading, but tumultuous Paris is equally compelling, laid out here by DeSanti in all her grisly or gorgeous glory." — Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"Against a carefully recreated landscape of France and the City of Lights during the 1860s, with the Prussian army heading for Paris, DeSanti brings a 21st-century sensitivity for the plight and passions of women in her rendering of Eugénie and the women and men she comes to travel (and drink) among." —Mireille Guiliano, internationally best-selling author of French Women Dont Get Fat
"Reading The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is like entering a lush dream filled with beauty and brutality. This astonishing debut is a panoramic story of war and peace, love and betrayal, innocence and hard-won wisdom, told through the eyes of a compelling woman who kept me at her side through it all." —Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance
"So richly and sensuously drawn one can almost feel it . . . Perhaps if [Eugénie's] contemporary, Emma Bovary, had possessed the ingenuity, wit, and tenacity of Eugénie R., Madame B. wouldnt have had to take that arsenic." — Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day
"Lord! This is a great piece of work. How beautifully this is written. How rare that is to discover on the page." — Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out Of Carolina
"A magnificent novel in scope and achievement, powerfully written yet delicately evocative." — Fay Weldon
“An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history.” — Booklist
“Enthralling. A Fierce Radiance shines with fascinating detail.... Belfers powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read.” — Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank
Set during the uncertain early days of World War II, this suspenseful story from the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light follows the work of photojournalist Claire Shipley as she captures Americas race to develop life-saving antibiotics—an assignment that will involve blackmail, espionage, and murder.
Love, war, and commerce converge in this lush, epic story of a woman who follows her love to Paris, only to find herself marooned, pregnant, and penniless. Set around France's Second Empire, where absinthe, prostitution, vast wealth, and cataclysmic social upheaval abound, this novel delicately explores the contrary requirements of a woman's survival.
“As fiercely depicted as the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec.” — Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille
Love and war converge in this lush, epic story of a young womans coming of age during and after Frances Second Empire (1860-1871), an era that was absinthe-soaked, fueled by railway money and prostitution, and transformed by cataclysmic social upheaval.
Eugénie R., born in foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris but soon finds herself marooned. An outcast, she charts the treacherous waters of sexual commerce on a journey through artists ateliers and pawnshops, zinc bars and luxurious bordellos. Giving birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon, Eugénie spends the next ten years fighting to get her back, falling in love along the way with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. Then, as the gates of the city close on the eve of the Siege of Paris, Eugénie comes face to face with her past. Drawn into a net of desire and need, promises and lies, she must make a choice and find her way to a life that she can call her own.
"Eugénie R.s story drops us into the dark velvety centers of sex, sin, and political intrigue, and takes us along on her own instinctive journey to modern womanhood." — Lynn Hunt, Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History, UCLA
"This astonishing debut is a panoramic story of war and peace, love and betrayal, innocence and hard-won wisdom." — Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance
About the Author
Lauren Belfer is the author of the New York Timesbestselling novel City of Light, a number one Book Sense pick, a Discover Award nominee, and a New York TimesNotable Book. Her fiction has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. She lives in New York City.