Author: Shaena Lambert.
Genre: Fiction, war lit, WWII, politics.
Publication Date: February 2007
Summary: An eighteen-year-old survivor of the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima and killed the people she loved best, Keiko has been chosen from hundreds to undergo sponsored treatments for her face in the U.S. On the tarmac, waiting nervously, is Daisy, a childless housewife who is to take care of the girl in her suburban Long Island home. Set against the backdrop of McCarthyism and an America appalled and entranced by its own destructive power, Radiance is a novel about intimacy that can only lead to betrayal.
My rating: 6/10
♥ You do something, Daisy was thinking, and then you do something else, and all at once you discover you have altered the course of your life. My friends, there is a choice.
♥ The moon hung to her left, pocked and scarred, its mouth clawed to one side. But it was luminous - white and full and luminous - floating above the line of poplars at the edge of the field, coming in and out of sight, like a signal she couldn't read.
♥ God, it made her groan with agony, a moaning like the moaning of a ship's sodden flooring, at what men could think about women, especially after reading Robert Graves. This dreadful concept that women should be muses; that simply by standing still in a grove of trees they could be in touch with their deepest nature; while men, who lacked this insentient connection, needed to go out and act. Slay a few strangers. Write an epic.
♥ She knew he was trying to hurt her, in a tender, loverly way (because wasn't finding out what hurt another person, and then prying and poking at those places, part of what lovers did - an extension of the act of sex itself?).
♥ He took a moment and then he began his story, and as he spoke, the child grew silent, frowning, her beautiful eyes narrowing. She looked as though she was hoping to detect an error, but Keiko's grandfather knew better: people looking for errors in stories listened from their heads, but Keiko was listening from deep inside. Her hearts was listening
♥ This was one one of the great pities about the Project and those who led it: they were, in the end, bleeding-heart liberals, with soft, mealy attitudes towards the future. They wanted to stop the Superbomb, and to create an international system of governance, and to abolish atomic weapons testing, but not one of them could look squarely at the thing they were attempting to abolish. They were like children, covering their eyes with blankets.
♥ One afternoon Walter made the mistake of showing David some of his writing. David criticized it so severely they almost got into a fist fight. "You've been creating a golem," David said. "You haven't written a single thing that's alive. You have to find what's meaningful to you, puncture a vein in your arms and then write with your own blood."
♥ The magic of weapons. The interpreter feels what he has done - how he has made himself invincible, drawn a circle around himself, protecting his body from the shambles, the smell and the animal shifting of feet. He alone believes in something noble. He believes in the fighting spirit, he believes in killing those who do not have the dignity to die. He believes, most ardently, in the blade of his father's sword.
♥ Daisy had rushed here determined to stop the madness of the Project, to throw herself between it and Keiko. Instead she felt as though she had plunged through a rabbit hole, and Dr. Carney, a joker affixed to his front, was the first person she'd met.
♥ "It's tempting," he said, "to love those who have suffered. To love them with every ounce of love we have, whether this love is misplaced or not. I am sure," he added, "that in years to come, Keiko will feel enriched by your kindness."
♥ It was not one of the major hearings the House Committee held, sandwiched as it was between exposing Reds in high schools and Reds in unions. Walter was part of the entertainment industry, but he was no Elia Kazan, no Lauren Bacall. His appearance did not even make the television news, though it was written up in some newspapers. In the end, his refusal to name the people he'd associated with in old days made little difference: it certainly didn't affect national or international security. Walter Lawrence took a stand, but not every stand has an influence on history.
♥ ...but the nice thing about Jesus was that you could believe he was made up - all that love he was supposed to have - just a beautiful made-up construction. So she could imagine him opening his flannel robes, pointing with his delicate, bloodied palms to his flaming heart. She could imagine him resting her head against the burning furnace, showing her how easily this was done. She could imagine him loving her.
♥ It helps to remember what Keiko once told her about Hiroshima: how people believed nothing could grow again, yet how quickly the burnt areas burst forth with grass and weeds. And how terrible that was - to see the cherries bloom too, then the plums, the azaleas, peonies, lilies - the abandonment of it all, the wild and profligate blossoming, as though nature had no stake in human suffering.
♥ There is speech, and there is silence.
There is day, and there is night.
A long time ago there was the bomb blast, and then there were shadows lifting themselves from the wreckage, surging upwards. She can see what flickers between the burnt buildings, inside the flames. They are the souls of the dead, Mother and Grandfather and Mr. Takahura's daughter - but she can also see houses, the fleeing of twin foxes from the Inari shrine beside the Ota River, the rising of the mountain kami from the pine groves of Miyajima. She wants to tell these spirits that she's sorry for everything. Sorry to have stolen Yoshiko's lipstick. Sorry because she had kept going, past the ones who begged for water. To the burnt woman on the bridge she had murmured, I must find my mother.
"I am sorry," she says. "Forgive me."
But it is too late. Everything that dwells in shadow has risen up, dislodged by the twelve-kiloton blast of uranium and plutonium. For a moment the flock of spirits hovers above the city.
Then they float free.