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By Shaena Lambert

“It must be something in the water up there, but Canadian women writers are a remarkable breed…. names like Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Carol Shields offer a guarantee of a good story well told. And now there’s a new name to add to the pantheon: Shaena Lambert, whose debut novel, Radiance, is as compelling, as thoughtful and as fundamentally readable as those of her better-known sisters. . . Radiance is a gripping page-turner. . . The horror is calmly and precisely told, and is all the more dreadful for that. It’s a mark of Lambert’s skill as a writer oh, all right, and of my own mawkish tendencies that I wept. And it’s entirely possible that you will too.”
The Sunday Independent



This first novel by Shaena Lambert, whose debut short story collection, The Falling Woman, drew critical acclaim in 2002, pulls us into the aftermath of the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima–and into the zeitgeist of 1950s America, appalled and entranced by the effects of its own power.

Radiance follows two disparate women: Keiko, a Japanese girl badly scarred by the atom bomb and the first such victim to undergo sponsored treatments in the United States, and Daisy, the childless housewife who billets the girl in her suburban Long Island home. As Keiko is upheld by turns as a miracle of science and as a poster child for the ban the bomb movement, she appears eerily composed–equally impervious to the aggressive prodding from physicians and activists to divulge the horrific details of her experience as she is to the soft compassion of Daisy Lawrence, assigned to draw the story out of her.

Against a backdrop of McCarthyism in full swing and the hydrogen bomb on the brink of completion, Radiance traces the story of the deepening relationship between Daisy and Keiko. Wary manoeuvres, whispered intimacies and wrenching betrayals dance the two women unbearably close to the burning stories at each other’s hearts.

“This beautifully written novel captures the essence of Fifties America without striving for effect. Lambert. . . adds to Canada’s reputation for nurturing its literary writers. Her work has an echo of those other great Canadian writers, Alice Munro and Carol Shields.”
The Daily Mail

“Fascinating . . . The women in this novel are those that Betty Friedan would later make famous, driven mad by suffocating suburban lives, abused by war-shattered husbands, their ambitions mocked or thwarted. That is the trade-off for Keiko that Lambert so artfully describes; affluence and comfort come at the price of conformity.”
The Independent

“The emerging lawn-lined suburbs of 1950s America Shaena Lambert describes in her debut novel Radiance are familiar – rendered by contemporary chroniclers such as Richard Yates. Though Lambert was born a decade later in Canada, this is no watery pastiche. She skilfully threads her characters’ emotions and relationships with a brilliantly rendered historical background of McCarthyism and idealistic internationalism.Radiance is an absorbing debut which exquisitely locates unsentimental emotional histories in an America buoyant with post-war consumerism and racked with paranoia.”
Financial Times

“Radiance is a sublime meditation on the consequences of battle. The subject could not be more topical and her insights could not be more penetrating. A magnificent novel.”
-Kevin Patterson, author of Consumption

“An extraordinarily moving novel, Radiance illustrates with great originality how human beings make use of stories–as masks and as tools, as weapons and as balm. With each turning of the page, my admiration for Shaena Lambert grew: she is a marvelous writer!”
-Isabel Huggan, author of Belonging

“This will likely be one of the most popular novels of the year. . .Radiance is a deceptively quiet novel with the power of a nuclear explosion behind it. . . .Radiance is a revealing tale of suffering. It speaks of how people cope with the inevitable ripple effects of any explosive situation–no matter how seemingly subtle and quiet the detonation may be.”
Calgary Herald

“What shines most in Radiance is the integrity and honesty of Lambert’s voice. She writes with an unpretentious, unprissy, highly intelligent and perceptive sensibility that, if it weren’t so uniquely her own, might be a hybrid of Marilynne Robinson and Nadine Gordimer. . .With its setting in the McCarthy era at the beginning of the nuclear arms race, Radiance joins a long tradition of novels (by Tolstoy and George Eliot, for instance) that explore the tension between history and the efforts of individuals to make lives uniquely their own.”
Vancouver Sun

“Masterful . . . [ Lambert] has taken on a big story, skillfully setting it against a backdrop of communist witch hunts, when patriotism was at a premium, there was a suspicion of those who did not conform and suburban wives lived lives of quiet desperation . . . It could be an allegory for the society we live in today.”
The Montreal Gazette 

“This is an incredibly brave first novel. . . one that requires a dexterous leap of the imagination into very frightening territory. . . yet the author’s touch is assured and perfectly paced. She has been likened to Alice Munro, and certainly succeeds in fishing in those murky depths of each character, allowing complexities in the everyday to remain unexplained in order to relate essential, human stories.”
Edmonton Journal

“Radiance, the masterfully realized first novel by Vancouver poet and short story writer Shaena Lambert, is endowed with many virtues, not the least of which is its author’s deftly drawn evocation of that pinched, claustrophobic time [of 1950s America]. . . Along the way, the novel is studded with literary tours de force.”
Toronto Star

“A marvelous feat of imagining . . . Lambert writes with wonderful authority and audacity. . .Shaena Lambert has fully imagined the time and the place and the people, and her first novel is a healthy indication of a fine, wayfaring imagination. I look forward happily to all the journeys ahead.”
The Globe and Mail (Book Review)

“Haunting . . . By shining her writer’s penlight into the shadows of another dark era, Lambert reveals that there is still much to be learned about ourselves.”
The Globe and Mail (Author Profile)

“A radiant novel full of shadows and light, rich with layers of subterfuge and stark truths… This complex, artfully constructed novel works because it examines human yearnings — selfish or altruistic. Or like life, a muddy mixture of the two.”
The Halifax Chronicle Herald

“Shaena Lambert’s first novel gently detonates the emotional land mines dormant in diverse characters. . . .Radiance shines with moments both horrific and oddly humorous illustrating the state of 50s America. The characters develop at a pace so precise, you hardly notice you’ve been waiting to uncover the secret at the heart of the story for nearly 300 pages. And then you’re given what you’ve been promised.”
NOW Magazine

“Lambert’s writing, like Keiko herself, is detached, cool and compelling.”
Scotland on Sunday

“Set against the backdrop of the McCarthy era in the US,Radiance is a beautifully constructed and absorbing novel about relationships, secrets, politics, suspicion, and ultimately betrayal. . . Lambert exploded the Doris-Day myth of post-war suburban America. . . This is a fine novel. Easy to read, gripping, beautiful and sad.”
Iris Examiner

“Lambert’s powerful debut novel is more subtle than its plot line suggests. Lambert paints with fresh colours the now familiar setting of manicured, 1950s US suburbia.”
Metro London (4 Star – Fiction of the Week)

“A fascinating debut novel.”

Georgia Straight


Random House Canada, Canada, Spring 2007

Virago, UK, Spring 2007


Shortlisted for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize (2007)

Finalist for the 2008 BC Book Prize/Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize

Finalist for the 2008 Evergreen Award

Other Books by Shaena Lambert