Book Review: The Radium Girls – Kate Moore (2017)
Bronze Anthology Book Review
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (2017)
The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Who has ever heard of the radium-dial industry, let alone its effects on the women painting watch dials with the luminescent element? If the topic of this book doesn’t immediately intrigue you, perhaps you’ll be interested when you hear that it is the 2017 History & Biography Goodreads Choice Award winner.
The inventor of the radium paint used on watch dials said, “What radium means to us today is a great romance in itself. But what it may mean to us tomorrow, no man can foretell.” When the quote was published in 1921, the country hailed radium as a miracle element and the dial-girls fortunate, because they received its restorative benefits every day. Certainly none of the dial-girls that worked by repeatedly smoothing paint brushes with their lips, dipping the brushes in radium, and using it to illuminate watch dials could foretell the life-long impact those three repeated steps – lip, dip, paint – would have on their lives.
In Three Words
Be prepared that even the strength of these ‘shining women’ will not be enough to lighten this ‘dark story.’ The book was well researched and the story easily flowed, partly due to the author’s injected speculations. There were numerous dial-girls and persons to keep straight though, especially as the story jumped back and forth between two factories, multiple girls at those factories, and also included significant persons in the girls’ lives. Fortunately, the author did not leave any lingering questions and covered all of the dial-girls introduced in the book from when they began working with radium through the remainder of their lives. During which time, the author often describes the ‘radium girls’ physical struggles in somewhat graphic detail (i.e. not to be read before dinner).
Our Bronze Star Rating
It is a good read for anyone that questions the status quo or popular beliefs. It is not a good read for anyone that wants to feel justice has been served. Overall, it is a three bronze star read; minus one star for the lack of merit to the minutiae of the story and minus another star simply because it is not a story I would pick up again.