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FICTION : GLOWSTONE by MacDonald Harris (Morrow: $16.95; 309 pp.).

June 07, 1987|Bettyann Kevles

MacDonald Harris' morality tale pits Science against Art in the innocent world of Paris in its Belle Epoque . The recently widowed physicist-heroine, Claire Savarin-Decker, meets Blanco White--a white knight of a cowboy-millionaire who awakens both her latent sensuality and her conscience about the implications of her research.

Readers who can believe these characters may enjoy their Parisian romps and outing to Giverny to visit Claude Monet at home. Unfortunately, Harris' concern with the role of science is obscured by the obvious reference to Marie Curie. If this is a fictionalized version of her story, it is far from accurate. If it is not, his failure to mention her work with radium suggests that Claire was as isolated from fellow scientists as she was from her contemporaries in the arts. Whichever, the narrator, recalling the events from occupied Paris in 1943, mentions "rumors of a Jewish mathematician" who "has thought of a bomb so powerful that it would destroy an entire city," and declares, "Those who have thought of this terrible weapon will not be able to blame it on the politicians. It was not the politicians who thought of the formulae . . . ."

Flailing at scientists like Einstein and the Curies for making the Nuclear Age possible, Harris pinpoints the Belle Epoque as the time during which Western civilization could have--and should have--closed Pandora's Box.

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