Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

I finished up The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore awhile ago, but I’ve been so busy traveling that I haven’t had time to review it! I apologize for the sporadic posts on my blog. I’ve been doing a lot of reading for class, exploring and sleeping so I haven’t had as much time to devote to personal activities. I apologize, but I have lots of fun advanced copies on my Kindle to read, and I hope to finish and review them all soon!
Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 10.34.18 AMTitle/Author/Pg: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, 480pg
Date Published: May 2nd, 2017
Date Read: June 23rd, 2017
Genre: Non-Fiction

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women tells the story of the women who worked in watch-dial painting factories between World War I and World War II. Radium paint was used in these factories to paint glow-in-the-dark numbers on watch faces, which were used both in civilian life and in the military. However, not much was known about radium, but it was embraced as a miracle element, and was used in a variety of questionable medical tinctures and cures. As the dial factory women start getting sick, no one wants to acknowledge the fact that radium may be the cause. Moore details the women’s quest for health and justice as they fight against their powerful employers.

I have never heard of any of these women and their fight before, so I was very intrigued to learn about a more niche area of American war-related history. I love learning about World War I and II, and the period in-between, so I was intrigued by this book, its story, and how it played into the war effort. I think this is an important read, and the Radium Girls had such an important impact on science and our daily lives, since they became icons of the dangers of radium, helping to lead to its downfall.

The narrative style of this novel kept me interested. I am always hesitant when starting non-fiction, because if it is not written in a narrative style, it is hard for me to stay concentrated, even if I am very interested in the topic. However, Moore creates a captivating account of each girl’s life and struggles. Her writing evoked really strong emotions in me–of disgust and horror at the injustice these women faced, as well as their medical issues; of awe, respect and pride at their brave and admirable actions in the face of intense opposition. They paved their own way and fought for justice in a world dominated by men in seats of power, and their fighting spirit serves as an example to us today, to continue fighting for equality and justice no matter what.

Even though I truly enjoyed the story and writing style, I felt that the story was somewhat disjointed at times, especially in the beginning when we were introduced to many different women and girls in different factories at different times. I felt the paragraphs then were so short, creating a choppy reading experience. I couldn’t connect with any of the women mentioned in the first half of the novel, which was regrettable. However, towards the second half of the book, I felt that Moore really got into the swing of things, and created a fuller, more fleshed-out and exciting narrative, that flowed together much better than the first half. I began to empathize with and differentiate between women, which helped me to deeply understand their story. Moore’s telling focuses on a single location in the latter half, which I think really helped tie everything together and provide some focus to the narrative.

Overall, I gave The Radium Girls four stars on Goodreads. I think it tells an important and fascinating story, but is somewhat disjointed in its telling, especially early in the novel. Even so, I would definitely recommend this non-fiction novel! The subject matter and the way Moore wrote the second half makes up for any errors in the first half.

4/5 stars. Thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me an advanced digital copy.

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