Nowadays, it is not a difficult task to find a literary source that may capture the reader’s attention in several seconds. However, the worth and quality of such sources cannot be checked and proved the same easy way. Recently, I got a chance to read a book by Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout. This nonfiction work retells a story of the life of one famous physicist and chemist, Marie Curie, and her husband, Pierre.
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Its peculiar feature is a number of pictures, images, photos, and collages supporting the text. Redniss’ decision to use her artwork in the nonfiction book is a powerful idea that helps to enhance reading, replace ordinary words with a kind of visual journey that opens a new world to the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie, and prove that sometimes one picture may be more effective than many, even the smartest, words.
One of the most noticeable peculiarities of Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout is the author’s ability to enhance reading by means of an artwork chosen. At the very beginning, it seems to be very easy and, what is more important, interesting to read the book and learn more interesting facts from the life of this amazing woman. It is hard to believe that a simple biography and the narration of the scientific achievements alongside images may influence the reading process.
At the same time, it is necessary to admit that the majority of the words chosen by the author play an important role in the understanding of the story. For example, Redniss describes Marie’s attitude to the surroundings: “I have fallen into black melancholy… our daily companions are dreadful west winds, with embellishments of rain, flood, and mud…” (19).
Though this description does not seem to be nonfictional, it is still considerably improved by a simple black-and-white artwork on the page. In this particular example, as well as in several cases, Redniss does not want to use her artwork just to fill in the story or replace language. The use of this technique may be better explained as a desire to inspire creativity, capture attention, and wake enthusiasm.
Sometimes, Redniss seems to be eager to use her artwork in order to replace language or avoid the necessity to search for some words in the situations, when they are not necessary. For example, the situation when “the physicist was struck by a horse-drawn carriage crossing the Pont Neuf” (Redniss 96) is expected to be improved by some pictures. The use of such technique affects the reading of a nonfiction book in a variety of ways.
First, the reader is able to see that the author has certain feelings and emotions in regards to the death of one of the main characters. Second, it is clear that Redniss has her own vision of death and its effects on human life. The image of the horse on a dark blue background symbolizes a kind of a death’s messenger that is expected and cannot be avoided.
Finally, in her book, Redniss wants to prove the effectiveness of her artwork by means of considerable shifts from black-and-white illustrations to colorful images. However, telling the truth, not every reader can mention the shift when it was used for the first time. For example, I did not pay much attention to this shift at first. When I came to the period when their first daughter, Irene, “a six-pound baby girl” (Redniss 38) was born, I noticed that the story got its color.
Probably, it was my decision to notice some changes at this particular period. I think everyone deserves the right to follow personal ideas and thoughts and make decisions when something should or should not be understood. Nevertheless, the shift under consideration brings certain changes to the book. The reader gets a chance to believe that it is so easy to add some colors to everyday life. It is enough to have some passion, desire, and confidence, as Marie and Pierre did, and try to improve something around.
In general, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout is one of those nonfiction books that are always interesting to read and discuss. It is not only about some words and ideas. It is about an artwork that fulfills the text and makes the language more understandable to the reader.
The visual journey that is presented by Redniss is a chance to learn better the details of Marie and Pierre Curie’s lives and enjoy the beauty of the images used in the story. The pictures help to see how the author accepts the events and treats her characters. Even the choice of color matters. Her technique becomes good evidence of how words and images may coexist, improve understanding of a nonfiction text, and explain the author’s intentions and attitudes in regards to the characters presented in the story.
Redniss, Lauren. Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout. New York, NY: It Books/Harper Collins, 2010. Print.