Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Radium Girls (ARC)

I was given this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is a narrative non-fiction depicting the struggles of a group of women known as ‘Radium Girls’. These women painted luminous watch dials during World War One and the 20s – using paint with radium in it. They were taught that in order to produce the best quality and quickest work they should use the ‘lip, dip, paint’ method – put the brushes in their mouths to get the sharpest point.

The result of consuming so much radium, and in many cases for several years, was shocking. These women began to quite literally fall apart – radium hit hard and fast, attacking women around my age; women who should have been starting their lives, not facing the idea that they could be at the end.

This book was incredibly difficult to read, but completely worth it. I don’t think I’ve read anyone this hard to get through in a long time; these girls’ stories are so important but emotional. I ended up taking breaks between chapters in order to ground myself and process everything properly. The actions of the USRC were deplorable and seemingly never-ending; even with Catherine Donohue on the brink of death the radium company continued to appeal her court case. What started as simple denial, and even ignorance as to the actual effects of radium, turned into vicious and dangerous practices, knowingly putting more and more girls’ lives at risk for the sake of the business.

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A scene described in the book, I found this photo on Google Images [x] while looking for the cover image. Catherine Donohue lies on her sofa – Charlotte Purcell is by her feet, identifiable by her missing arm. Pearl Payne holds Catherine’s hand. All of these women were suffering from radium poisoning.

In terms of the writing, the book starts with a disclaimer from Moore, discussing her need to accurately depict the girls and do them justice. I believe that this was done very well, however it doesn’t always read smoothly – Moore has clearly done her research, and that can be difficult to weave into a narrative; particularly a non-fiction one. For the most part though, the ‘cast’ as it were –I’m reluctant to call them characters, as they were very real people and this should be remembered in reading the book – are written very sympathetically and certainly had me hooked. The facts can get heavy, but this is necessary. I can’t push enough the fact that this isn’t a story; this really happened, and the facts and figures make the emotional aspects all the more shocking – think of this as a documentary on paper.

I am in mourning for these girls. The work they did aided so many soldiers, but their pain and suffering was horrific and largely unnoticed or even ignored at the time. It can be said that they did not struggle in vain, however – they paved the way for so much progress. As Moore discusses at the end of the book, the dial painters changed workers’ rights, provided a starting point for research on other occupational hazards and dangerous substances and even potentially influencing legislation on nuclear warfare. This book brings their story to the world again and gives them a voice almost 100 years after the events began. I certainly won’t forget it any time soon.

See you soon,

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Fandom Friday | How Should We Read?

I feel like this post is an inevitable one for all book bloggers. The physical book vs eReader vs audiobook debate is one that’s been long raging and surprisingly devisive amongst many readers. I know people who refuse to use eReaders, I know people who have abandoned physical books. All mediums have their benefits, and all mediums have their issues. Is there really a ‘best’ way to read?

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Physical Books

I don’t think there’s a single reader out there who doesn’t want to bottle the scent of real physical books. Old books, new books, they all have this incredible smell that can’t be beaten. Paper books feel good to read – it feels like you own the book in a way that you can’t get with a Kindle, and I find it much easier to tell my progress; percentages mean nothing to me when I can easily see how much of the book I’ve read and how far I’ve got to go with a physical copy. This was never much of an issue when I solely read for pleasure, but it was definitely important during my degree and now that I have Review Wednesdays to think about!

I love physical books and there is definitely something about flicking through the softened pages of a well loved favourite that other formats simply can’t simulate.  Despite this, they take up a lot of space and often cost considerably more than electronic books and audiobooks.

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eReaders/Reading on Electronic Devices

If you’ve seen my Instagram lately you’ll have seen that while I’ve posted a lot of photos of physical books, I’ve also posted a photo of my Kindle Paperwhite. I have been using my Kindle a lot lately, having bought 4 books and received two via NetGalley on there. Electronic reading means that publishers can use websites such as NetGalley to easily send ARCs to reviewers such as myself. For the reader, it means that you can carry a huge amount of books around on a device much smaller and lighter than even one novel. It also means that you don’t even have to get up to start reading something else once finishing a book, and can instantly download the next one in a series.  While it’s an art that I think most readers have mastered, stuffing a 600 page novel into an already full bag is definitely not an easy feat! Reading on a phone makes books even more portable, eliminating the need to pack anything extra – however I find that this strains my eyes, so I don’t tend to do it. eReaders also provide more accessibility for many people; those with visual impairments can make the text as large as they need, making many books that wouldn’t be physically printed in large text much more accessible.

Another point worth mentioning for electronic reading is that there’s much more access to independent authors via eBooks – a lot of people self publish eBooks, and publishers often start publishing independent authors on eBook before physical copies. If you want to read more independent titles I would say that the Kindle Store has a much larger, more varied selection of independent writers than most physical book shops.

Audiobooks

Audio books have never really been something I’ve gotten into. My family like them, including my brother and dad, who don’t enjoy reading. Personally I’d rather read, as I find that I can’t fully put all my attention into audio books. I also find that the person reading them definitely affects my ability to engage with the story. I listened to the original dramatised radio show of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and while I loved that and still listen to Welcome To Night Vale, a serialised story told through podcasts, overall I prefer to read stories rather than listen to them. Despite not being my read or just want something other than music to listen to while travelling or nodding off to sleep, I’d definitely say that audio books could be for you. Audio books also make books much more accessible to those with visual impairments.

So there’s my view on it. I don’t really see the need to be so purist about one medium over another – they all have good and bad points, and I feel like judging someone’s personal preferences breeds an attitude that just puts people off reading. We should aim to encourage literacy and reading, not judge people if they’d rather read on their phone than get a physical book! I don’t believe that physical books are threatened by the electronic publishing industry, and I don’t believe that eReaders can ever fully replace the feel of a physical book. For me the most important thing in reading is that the story is good; whatever format it’s in.

What’s your favourite method of reading? Have I forgotten anything?

See you soon,

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