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Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl by Samantha Wilcoxson


Book review: Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl by Samantha Wilcoxson




Official blurb:
Catherine’s life is set on an unexpected course when she accepts a job at Radium Dial. She soon finds out that the excellent pay is no recompense for the evil secret that lurks in the magical glow-in-the-dark paint.
Catherine Donohoe takes on the might of a big corporation and becomes an early pioneer of social justice in the era between world wars.
Emotive and inspiring – this book will touch you like no other as you witness the devastating impact of radium poisoning on young women’s lives.

My thoughts

Luminous, by Samantha Wilcoxson, started as a quandary for me. It’s a very interesting story, which is why I wanted to read it, but for the first third I couldn’t quite connect with the story and characters. The dialogue seemed stilted and overly religious, and the writing style just didn’t sing. The main character, putting the radium-dipped brush to her lips, initially put me. I mentally cried out, “no, don’t do that!” and perhaps that reaction shaped my reading of the next few chapters.

I settled into the second third of the story, accustomed to the slower style and the author’s depiction of time passing. As I read, I became more at home with the dialogue, ready to accept the hints of underlying tension.

By the final third, I was hooked. Here was the drama, emotion, and action. Here were the pivotal scenes I’d yearned for in this important retelling of a woman’s fight to be heard. There were tears (mine) and anger (mine again) at the mistreatment, and concern at the effects of such disregard in the face of profit (past, present, and future).

Luminous is well-researched and has a measured pace. It fits well into the social and economic times of the 1930s. Wilcoxson addresses the different mentality of society; the unwillingness to cause trouble in the face of job loss and the disregard given by employers and doctors to women’s health and well-being.


If you’re interested in the story of the radium painters, then buy the novel and read it. I recommend it.


The pace of the story, slow at first, comes naturally to a point where a positive reading experience occurs. It will be somewhere different for every reader who brings to it their own experience and knowledge. It lured me into the narrative evoking the sense of horror and outrage that the author no doubt intended.


You might even say that the flow of the story matches the progress of radium poisoning. It takes time to take hold.


This is an important story to share, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the author had to say. It was worth sticking with. Not all fiction can, or should be, action from the first page. Some stories need to be absorbed more than others so that their themes and underlying messages can be clearly understood.


Luminous is just such a story.



Author Samantha Wilcoxson
Author Samantha Wilcoxson

About the author

Samantha Wilcoxson is an author of emotive biographical fiction and strives to help readers connect with history’s unsung heroes. She also writes nonfiction for Pen & Sword History. Samantha loves sharing trips to historic places with her family and spending time by the lake with a glass of wine. Her most recent work is Women of the American Revolution, which explores the lives of 18th century women, and she is currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton.


Connect with Samantha Wilcoxson:




Book Information

· Genre: Fictional account of real events, 1920s and 30s.

· Print length: 321 pages (83K words)

· Age range: This is an adult book, but may be suitable for mature older teenagers

· Trigger warnings: Distressing medical content

· Amazon Rating: 4.5*


cirlce of thorns with coffee cup in centre
Coffee and Thorn Leading Reviewer

I received a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review as part of the Coffee and Thorn Book tour. A shorter version of this review will also appear on Amazon (Australia) and Goodreads.



1 Σχόλιο


Πελάτης
22 Σεπ 2023

Thanks so much for this thoughtful review!

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