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Radioactive is the visual journey into the life of Marie Curie, as told through the dazzling collage style of acclaimed author and artist Lauren Redniss A brilliant visual storyteller, Redniss has hand designed thancolor collages to tell Curie s story, fascinating in its scientific significance and its sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting mix of romance and intrigue Bringing together archival photos, images, and clippings with dazzling line drawings and a compelling narrative, Radioactive is far than just an art book or a graphic novel It is a stunning visual biography and a true work of art


10 thoughts on “Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

  1. Ken-ichi Ken-ichi says:

    This is an illustrated biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and an impressionistic exploration of the marks their pioneering research left on the world As history, I thought it was great Extensive reliance on primary sources, juxtaposition of the past Marie s letters, a Russian map of Chernobyl and the present a phone interview with a nuclear security expert, collages by a survivor of Hiroshima , and a thorough list of annotated citations all made for a compelling, believable experience As This is an illustrated biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and an impressionistic exploration of the marks their pioneering research left on the world As history, I thought it was great Extensive reliance on primary sources, juxtaposition of the past Marie s letters, a Russian map of Chernobyl and the present a phone interview with a nuclear security expert, collages by a survivor of Hiroshima , and a thorough list of annotated citations all made for a compelling, believable experience As a work of art, the singularity of the work is impressive Redniss not only created all the visuals and wrote the text, but she also designed the font and, I assume, did all her own typography It s not comics no attempts to depict time with sequential images , but this form of illustrated non fiction is certainly unique and interesting.That said, I m not sure what the format contributes to the history, or to Redniss s interpretation The illustrations are beautiful, ghostly, sad, largely stemming from the luminescent qualities of the cyanotypes and a palette of cool blues, greens, and oranges radium, as Redniss points out in a colophon, glows faintly blue , all of which contribute to the mystery and melancholy underlying the work and lives of the Curies, but I find the line drawings inappropriately dehumanized Faces are mostly expressionless, with deeply lined eyes, but otherwise rendered with minimal even child like line work, often resembling some of Picasso sketches The effect is eerie, and I don t think it illuminates the interaction between the deep passions and equally powerful intellects of the Curies in the way the text does.Honestly, my favorite portion of the book was the quote from Loie Fuller in the beginning herself a fascinating person at the edge of art and science , which captures the strange liminal sensation of the time and of this book , when science s push against the boundaries of mystery was something you could see and touch.To see, to feel, to smell, to hear, to taste, these are the only invisible facts but which we acknowledge are real the sensations of horror that kills, of grief that prostrates, joy that uplifts, and faith that cures what if these things can be registered and seen apart from the body, are they not then material things And may they not indicate that other invisible materials exist which are in reality material if we had the human capacity for observing them Perhaps Radium and its sister elements may one day help us here We may not believe, but we do not know that we should not believe Also, check out this glowing apologies review in the Times


  2. Roger Brunyate Roger Brunyate says:

    Way Outside the BoxSo I order this to read for our book club, thinking it would be just a normal account of the Curies discovery of radioactivity The book arrives Surely there must be some mistake this looks like something for children pages filled with big colored illustrations mingled with occasional paragraphs of handwritten text But no, while often childlike, the book is never childish And the mixture of media gives only a hint of how widely author artist Lauren Redniss has foraged to Way Outside the BoxSo I order this to read for our book club, thinking it would be just a normal account of the Curies discovery of radioactivity The book arrives Surely there must be some mistake this looks like something for children pages filled with big colored illustrations mingled with occasional paragraphs of handwritten text But no, while often childlike, the book is never childish And the mixture of media gives only a hint of how widely author artist Lauren Redniss has foraged to fill her cornucopia of art, science, and history.She starts by apologizing to Marie Curie for ignoring her insistence that there is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life Not only does she make such a connection, she glories in it Look at the chapter headings of the first part Symmetry, Magnetism, Fusion scientific terms, but also personal ones In the opening chapter, Redniss portrays the separate lives of Pierre and Marie in symmetry, on opposite pages, before showing the magnetism that drew them together as a couple, and the fusion that produced a child But she also tells us of Pierre s work on the symmetry of crystals, and Marie s on magnetism and radiation The question of atomic fusion and fission lies far in the future.But Redniss goes there too At the very end of the first part, amid drawings of Marie and Pierre embracing in their laboratory, she has the words The new science needed a name Turn the page to a double spread glowing in a muted cloudburst, containing only the words, I coined the term radioactivity Then look again, and you realize that the cloudburst is really an atomic blast not at all in your face, but lurking there as a threat.Although the longer second part continues with the story of the Curies, it strikes off sparks in many other directions spiritualism, for example, the dancer Lo e Fuller, a list of famous Poles A photograph of a man receiving radium treatment for a tumor in 1920 is juxtaposed with the first hand account of a tumor survivor in 2001 Soon, we are jumping to Chernobyl, the Manhattan Project, and Three Mile Island, and each time Redniss finds some unexpected witness to bring her message home An FBI surveillance report photos of the mutant zinnias and roses found near Harrisburg the reports of a biologist studying wildlife in the Ukraine One of the most effective spreads in the book is also the simplest, a black paper cutout used by a survivor of Hiroshima to show how her father s blackened skin peeled away at a touch A tale of love and fallout, says the subtitle Nothing is predictable, neither the great discoveries nor their unexpected consequences, and love is the least logical thing of all So by jumping around in subject and time, Redniss is only celebrating the power of surprise She is thinking outside the box, way outside The skill with which she balances the glory of the Curies discoveries and their continued benefits against their terrible consequences would be remarkable even in a book that was all text But the illustrations offer a further layer of unpredictability In almost no case does she simply illustrate the action her drawings are bold, somewhat expressionist, even disturbing I can t say that I like them as art, but as a constantly shifting matrix for a subject that refuses to be pinned down, their effect is powerful indeed.My only real complaint is that patches on the hard cover are printed in slightly raised ink like fine sandpaper, that you fear coming off on your hands But close the cover and put out the lights, and you will see their purpose the book literally glows in the dark


  3. Elizabeth A Elizabeth A says:

    This book is an illustrated biography of Pierre and Marie Curie, and be forewarned that the cover art glows in the dark It took me several moments to realize that I was not experiencing a paranormal event one dark night.I have mixed feelings about this book Marie Currie is someone I have been fascinated with since I was a kid, and it was fun to read about her again, and learn quite a few new interesting nuggets in the process The art in this book is wonderfully evocative ghostly and luminou This book is an illustrated biography of Pierre and Marie Curie, and be forewarned that the cover art glows in the dark It took me several moments to realize that I was not experiencing a paranormal event one dark night.I have mixed feelings about this book Marie Currie is someone I have been fascinated with since I was a kid, and it was fun to read about her again, and learn quite a few new interesting nuggets in the process The art in this book is wonderfully evocative ghostly and luminous, but towards the latter half of the book, there was almost too much text, and muddling of the main story line Still, I liked it, and will certainly be reading other books by this author


  4. Hannah Garden Hannah Garden says:

    I thought this book was just so lovely The illustrations are amoeba y grave and slender elegant creepy jellicle elegies for the Curies I like the text, too the font is sick and the syntax is precise and gentle, like little wooden pieces that fit together with barely audible clicks.


  5. Courtney Johnston Courtney Johnston says:

    It seems absurd to try to talk about this book without you being able to see it It is easy enough to describe the story Lauren Redniss tells in this graphic biography, but hard to describe the emotional colour her images bring to her words The details of Marie Sklodowksa and Pierre Curie s joint biographies are reasonably familiar to readers of science history his early scientific talent and her struggle to get a scientific education their romance and marriage their separate and joint rese It seems absurd to try to talk about this book without you being able to see it It is easy enough to describe the story Lauren Redniss tells in this graphic biography, but hard to describe the emotional colour her images bring to her words The details of Marie Sklodowksa and Pierre Curie s joint biographies are reasonably familiar to readers of science history his early scientific talent and her struggle to get a scientific education their romance and marriage their separate and joint research, and distillation of first radium and then polonium his early death, and the famous story of Marie taking over his chair at the Sorbonne, walking in and picking up his lecture where he had left it Marie s ongoing work and passionate and scandalous affair with Paul Langevin her work in World War One with mobile x ray units, where she was joined by her teenage daughter Irene, who herself went on to become a nuclear physicist, also working with her husband, Frederick Joliot and, like her parents before her, sharing a Nobel Prize with him Marie s death from aplastic pernicious anaemia, the result of prolonged exposure to radiation, in 1934 aged 66.What Redniss brings to the pile of literature that already surrounds the couple is a sense of the passion of their relationship and especially of Marie as a physical and sensual woman that is coupled to the intensity of their scientific research I have always been somewhat puzzled, looking at the photos of Marie Curie once out of her teenage years, that this rather shadowy, rather dowdy woman could have been at the centre of one of France s most titillating love stories that she could actually have duels fought over her But Redniss makes tremendous use of archival material From Marie s diary just before Pierre s death, written as the family was on holidayWe collected flowering chestnut branches and gathered a huge bouquet of large water buttercups that you loved so We slept nuzzled against each other, as always I sat down against you and lay across your body I had a little clenching in my heart holding you there, but I felt happy And then after his death, run down by a horse drawn cart on a rainy Paris streetThey brought you in and placed you on the bed I kissed you and you were still supple and almost warm Pierre, my Pierre, you are there, calm as a poor wounded man resting in his sleep, his head bandaged Your face is sweet, as if you dream My Pierre, I got up after after slept rather well, relatively calm That was barely a quarter of an hour ago, and now I want to howl again like a savage beast Four years after death, Marie fell heavily for his former student, the married scientist Paul Langevin The two exchanged torrid letters when separated, even if only for a matter of hours From Langevin I am trembling with impatience at the thought of seeing you return at last, and of telling you how much I missed you I kiss you tenderly awaiting tomorrow.Redniss conveysinformation in a small number of words than you would expect possible She doesn t stint on the science or the story, and her style is personal, but never quirky or too I thinky You get the sense of someone who has conducted a great deal of researcj, and then pared back and pared back and pared back, without losing any colour.And colour is at the heart of this book Where Judith Schalansky s Atlas of Remote Islands , similarly a mix of words and images, was restrained in its palette, Redniss book is joyous and unbounded The end papers are ochre Rothko esque colour fields, that feel soaked in pigment each chapter is signalled by a midnight blue double page spread with spidery white words picked out across it the water buttercups are a radiant spray of yellow and red, blue and green While Redniss drawing style is not one I would spend time with on a wall somewhere between Clemente, de Chirico and the happiest bits of Expressionism paired with her story, it works.In particular, Redniss has adapted the photographic printing technique of cyanotype, where chemically treated paper is exposed to sunlight, with the positive spaces masked the sunlight causes a reaction that turns the exposed paper Prussian blue the colour of old fashioned blueprints The areas that were masked seem, when revealed, to let light shine through from a hidden source As Redniss writes in an endnoteUsing this process to create the images in this book made sense to me for a number of reasons First, the negative of an image gives an impression of an internal light, a sense of glowing that I felt captured what Marie Curie called radium s spontaneous luminosity Second, because photographic imaging was central to the discovery both of X rays and of radioactivity Last, I later learned, Prussian blue capsules were approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective treatment for internal contamination by radioactive cesium and radioactive thallium.Interpolated with the story of Marie and Pierre s life is the 20th century s radioactive history Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, radiation therapy, fossy jaw , Hiroshima and Nagasaki Redniss finds one small detail to illustrate each of these big stories a woman in Pennsylvania who collects, photographs and presses flowers mutated by the fallout from Three Mile Island a scientist who researches birds in the area surrounding Chernobyl a Japanese woman who was 13 on the day the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, who makes for Redniss a paper cutout that shows how her father s blackened skin peeled off his body, exposing the red muscle underneath Never sentimental, these interludes especially this last have incredible emotional heft And finally the cover glows in the dark Whatdelight can you ask for


  6. Barbara McEwen Barbara McEwen says:

    4.5 stars All right graphic novel fans, art lovers, and science nerds, this is for you This one is a work of art You get to learn tidbits of science, some juicy gossip, and it is packaged beautifully It is not, by any stretch, exhaustive for those of you wanting a full biography My only qualm, if I want to be picky, is you do jump around in time between Pierre and Marie Curie s lifetime and the creation of the atomic bomb and other subsequent uses of their findings I think it is an artisti 4.5 stars All right graphic novel fans, art lovers, and science nerds, this is for you This one is a work of art You get to learn tidbits of science, some juicy gossip, and it is packaged beautifully It is not, by any stretch, exhaustive for those of you wanting a full biography My only qualm, if I want to be picky, is you do jump around in time between Pierre and Marie Curie s lifetime and the creation of the atomic bomb and other subsequent uses of their findings I think it is an artistic choice and it is very attractive but a bit jumpy There isn t any separation or indication you are moving onto another topic Still, I would buy this as a coffee table book if anyone who visited me read


  7. Alicen Alicen says:

    I loved this book for the sheer fact that when I put it down the other night and turned off the lights it GLOWED A beautiful book in its genre bending is it a biography A graph novel that I highly recommend although I will note for those who know a lot about Marie Curie s life already it might be a tad boring.


  8. Summer Summer says:

    I thought this was okay The art wasn t particularly impressive to me and the narrative was disjointed It would talk about periods of Marie Curie s life chronologically but then it would suddenly jump ahead in time and switch topics periodically It did contain some interesting information but I would recommend watching a documentary or read a biography about Marie Curie over this.


  9. K K says:

    This was my first graphic novel well, not really a novel graphic work of non fiction too long , and I think the medium may just not be for me If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be distracting I was distracted by everything, particularly the pictures and the artistic but annoying to read font The narrative itself was distracting, jumping around in time and space even though it all connected back to radioactivity Atolerant reader might have appreciated the This was my first graphic novel well, not really a novel graphic work of non fiction too long , and I think the medium may just not be for me If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be distracting I was distracted by everything, particularly the pictures and the artistic but annoying to read font The narrative itself was distracting, jumping around in time and space even though it all connected back to radioactivity Atolerant reader might have appreciated the collage like effect, which clearly involved a lot of effort and creativity I acknowledge all that, but it just wasn t for me.Sometimes it felt like Redniss just didn t have that much to say, and was using art and gimmicks like putting only a few words on a page to stretch the story to book length It really feltlike I was reading an article than a book Sometimes I felt like the story was dumbed down, although that may have simply been a visceral reaction to having pictures in my books which I thought I outgrew a long time ago Other times I felt like it was over my head with all the chemistry stuff Science is not usually my preferred reading area, and although I ended up enjoying books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, I think that attests to the quality of those books rather than to my aptitude for or interest in science reading Unfortunately, Radioactive Marie and Pierre Curie is not one of the books that managed to bridge the gap between me and science.So three stars because I recognize the creativity here and a lot of interesting bits about the Curies and radioactivity, but only three because it just didn t work that well for me


  10. Linda Robinson Linda Robinson says:

    As a total art design project, the book is stellar Using cyanotype prints is brilliant, the bluish glow irresistible mesmerizing the enthralled reader like a 50s illusionist until one wonders if a CT Scan needs scheduling Redniss designed the type Eusapia LR, named for Eusapia Palladino, a spiritualist, whose seances the Curies attended , and it fits the radioactive subject matter Reverse white type on a dark background is hard to read and the orange pages are close to impossible, but perh As a total art design project, the book is stellar Using cyanotype prints is brilliant, the bluish glow irresistible mesmerizing the enthralled reader like a 50s illusionist until one wonders if a CT Scan needs scheduling Redniss designed the type Eusapia LR, named for Eusapia Palladino, a spiritualist, whose seances the Curies attended , and it fits the radioactive subject matter Reverse white type on a dark background is hard to read and the orange pages are close to impossible, but perhaps having to peer closely at the text imprints the words better Interviews with people who have worked with, dug around and been toasted by radiation add mutant flavor to the tale of love and fallout The Curies descendants is a bizarre tale, and Redniss shares it as art that accentuates the horror of the killer elements, the blinding light of the physics, the sublime restfulness of amour, and the ridiculousness of humanity on its quest for the ultimate healer destroyer Redniss has created something entirely new like the Joliet Curies and their artificial radioactivity