Wednesday, June 1, 2011


by Lauren Belfer
HarperCollins 2010

Shortly after Pear Harbor, divorcee Claire Shipley, a staff photographer for Life Magazine, is sent to the Rockefeller Institute to document trials of an experimental drug called penicillin. There she meets attractive doctor Jamie Stanton and his sister, Lucretia, a researcher. Romance blooms between Claire and Jamie, but the war frequently intervenes. Tapped by the government which is determined to develop penicillin for the military, Jamie travels across the country to oversee production of the drug. Claire is also recruited to document the progress of the project and to conduct a little industrial espionage to make sure the drug companies are living up to their agreement with the government. Claire and Jamie's relationship is complicated by a shockingly personal murder and Claire's father, a successful but ambitious businessman.

Last month's topic for my library reader's group was medicine, so I was thrilled to find this on the "new books" shelf. The characterization is excellent and I came to care about the main characters, esp. Claire and Jamie. Claire is a strong modern woman, and Jamie is a good man who has experienced more heartache than he deserves. Claire's wheeler-dealer father is a complex mix of loving father and ruthless capitalist. I found it well-written except for the author's tendency to head hop from one character to another. The description is excellent, and the New York City of the period is as much a character as the people. I found myself wishing I could see it as it was then before the rise of the modern skyscrapers.

All in all, a fascinating glimpse of the home front during WWII and a reminder of what life was like before wonder drugs like penicillin, a time when a person could die from a scratch on the knee. The politics were particularly interesting and not that much different than what we see now in terms of the power games played by the federal government and the pharmaceutical companies. This is a story that will stay with you long after you finish it. Recommended. 

I'm also reviewing Carla Kelly's Regency romance, The Surgeon's Lady, at Lyndi's Love Notes.


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@Barrie Summy


Keri Mikulski said...

Wow. Sounds like a enlightening and fascinating historical novel. Thanks for the review. Happy Wednesday!

pattinase (abbott) said...

This sounds perfect for my book group. They adore books where they learn something and also care about the characters.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Keri and Patti, thanks for your comments. This is a great read.

I've now repaired the link to my other review at


Stacy said...

Sounds intriguing. Not the usual WWII era story.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Barrie said...

and I have a child who just came off penicillin! Thanks for joining!

Ellen Booraem said...

Amazing what we take for granted. My mother, born in 1909, was a pediatric nurse in the 30s and 40s, and would tear up when she talked about what penicillin meant to sick kids.

This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Ellen, thanks for sharing your mom's experience. Penicillin really was a wonder drug. Thanks for dropping by.

Jenn Jilks said...

I like historical fiction. Hubby is an expert on all things war. I like understanding where we have been and how much better things are now.
Thanks for visiting my book review.

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!

Anonymous said...

It is very helpful!

jeffrivera said...

Hey, great review. I like to read historical novel. I can't wait to read this book.