Radioactive Questions

  1. Why did Lauren Redniss choose this topic? What is her interest in Marie Curie and science? What made her decide that this topic would fit so well with her art and style?
  2. Is there a specific reason Redniss chose different styles/mediums of art for specific sections/events in the story?
  3. Does Redniss adding stories from events not about Marie and Pierre obscure the intended plot? Does it add confusion for the readers? Could this just be confusing because readers aren’t used to authors elaborating on smaller details?
  4. Lauren Redniss addresses Marie claiming that her personal life and scientific life are in no way related, so why does Redniss make it so? What were her intentions?
  5. How does the unusual artwork and style effect the feeling and mood of the book?
  6. Looking at the additional articles read in FI 112; is there a greater respect or interest for the topics because of reading Radioactive? Do the articles feel more relevant and important than they would without having read Radioactive?
  7. Who is Redniss’ intended audience? What does she expect to come from her book?
  8. Do the colors used change the readers feelings or reactions to certain events in the book? (ie; Pierre’s death, the miscarriage, the “scandal.”)
  9. What effect do the chosen quotes have on the reader? Knowing all quotes are actually from Marie herself, although maybe in a different context, how does that effect the reading?
  10. Is Redniss’ use of metaphor and foreshadowing effective? Does it help the reader? Does it strengthen the connection she is making between love and science?

“Radioactive” by Lauren Redniss: Book Review

Upon opening “Radioactive,” the graphic novel by Lauren Redniss, I was initially put off by Redniss’ apologizing about the fact that Marie Curie made the statement that her private life and scientific studies were not at all related. However, I feel that Redniss handles it very well. She doesn’t attribute Marie’s scientific success to her romantic life- she instead creates parallels between the scientific research and Marie’s life experiences.

Redniss beautifully connects her art, science, history, and love in her graphic novel.

Her use of Cyanotype rint and vibrant colors to create the illustrations shows a symbolic relationship between Marie’s love life and scientific discoveries. Cyanotype print illustrations first appear when Marie marries Pierre Curie, symbolizing their chemistry and relationship. It is then only used in serious and heightened situations, showing the importance of the events as well as the science behind cyanotype.

Foreshadowing is used so tactfully by Redniss as she begins each chapter with a quote from Marie Curie’s dissertation. The quotes, though about radioactivity, seem metaphorical for the events in Curie’s life that are about to be addressed in that chapter. Looking at chapter 5 of the novel, “Instability of Matter,” Redniss provides a quote from both Marie and Pierre. This is the only time in the novel that this occurs, and it only furthers how well Redniss handles foreshadowing. In the chapter, Marie and Pierre lose a child and are both deeply affected. The structure of the chapter page alone gives the reader some insight into how serious the following pages will be.

The storyline of the graphic novel can occasionally feel choppy and unorganize as Redniss throws in abrupt stories about radioactivity and history that are not directly related to Marie and Pierre’s relationship or scientific work. She manages this well though, because the stories display the importance and significance of the work Marie and Pierre are doing, as well as insight into the time period they lived in and their continued influence on the world.

The use of color in chapter 6 through the rest of the novel seems far more symbolic. Redniss utilizes color to represent the feelings and intentions in the story and artwork. Chapter 6, “Half Life,” begins with the Curie family as enjoying a day outdoors and Pierre expresses his contentment. The vibrant hues of red, orange, and green give a sense of warmth and happiness. The following pages include the event of Pierre’s death and the vibrant colors quickly transition into the blue and white colors of the cyanotype print. Vibrant colors return again when Marie mentions thinking of Pierre. Redniss makes good use of colors during Marie’s new relationship with Paul Langevin. She illustrates the two “lovers” in dark shades of red to illustrate passion- however, when Paul’s wife finds out about their affair, the colors deepen into brown and unappealing colors.

The story on it’s own is intriguing and the parallels keep you invested. Redniss effectively documents scientific and historic events all while maintaining an alluring feeling in the graphic novel. Her poetic way of writing takes normally tedious topics and turns them into something ethereal.

Overall, Redniss admirably creates a piece of art, literature, and history in her graphic novel. The way her art correlates with the story and the science behind it all gives readers an overwhelming visual experience that helps them to relate to and understand the importance of Marie Curie’s successes. This work of art brilliantly encompasses the way our world is filled with symmetry and all things relate in the grand scheme. Radioactive is a quick read, but the reader will want to make it last longer in order to analyze and interpret every line and artistic detail.

Radioactive Spread (pg 126-127)

This spread shows a complete visual, contextual, and elemental contrast of the relationship between Marie and Paul, and Paul’s wife.

The illustration of Marie and Paul is bright and vivid. The colors of red and green, the sharp, crude, and frenzied lines contrast against the icy blue of Jeanne Langevin’s demeanor and the soft curving lines of the lavish wife. The almost primitivist style against a detailed portrait contrast in virtually every way.

Marie stands faceless and depersonalized in the midst of Langevin and his wife’s struggle, holding a tethered stone against her personal Goliath: Jeanne. She is consistently in the novel effaced and eclipsed by her relationships and achievements.

-Katie Carney and Caitlyn Bishop

“Radioactive” by Lauren Redniss, vocabulary list

  • Animosity: Strong hostility (pg 128)
  • Beguiling: Charm (pg 64)
  • Bievre:  French word meaning River (pg 20)
  • Catastrophism: Theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by violent, sudden events- possible worldwide effects (pg 14)
  • Charlatan: A fraud (pg 61)
  • Coelostat: Device consisting of a flat mirror that is turned slowly by a motor to reflect a portion of the sky continuously into a fixed telescope.(pg 26)
  • Detonated: Explode/cause to explode (pg 138)
  • Drivel: Silly nonsense (pg 135)
  • Ensorcelled: Enchanted (pg 133)
  • Excursion: Short journey or trip (pg 34)
  • Follies: Lack of good sense (pg 21)
  • Hamstrung: Severely restrict  the efficiency (pg 178)
  • Imprimatur: An official license by the Roman Catholic Church to print a religious book.  (pg 52)
  • Postprandial Languor: Post lunch/dinner talk (pg 72)
  • Precarious: Net secure/uncertain  (pg 162)
  • Salubrious: Healthy (pg 61)
  • Somnambulism: Sleepwalking (pg 53)
  • Tantalizing: Torment with the promise of something unattainable. (pg 44)
  • Veneration: Great respect (pg 163)