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The Honest Look [Paperback]

Jennifer L. Rohn
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 9.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

19 Nov 2010
In becoming a scientist, Claire Cyrus hopes to escape the fate of her dead father, a brilliant but critically unsuccessful poet whose poverty and bitterness derailed her own strong talent for verse. Soon after moving from England to take up her first job in a start-up biotech company in the Netherlands, she finds herself an outcast in her strange new environment, shunned by her jealous colleagues and moving only on the fringes of the expatriate community. But when she makes an accidental discovery in the lab, her life will never be the same again. The Honest Look is a tale of passion, betrayal and a devastating secret that threatens to bring down careers, a company and a widely accepted scientific theory. Unfolding in the modern corporate laboratory, where the idealism of advancing knowledge and the uncompromising reality of profit margins exist in uneasy truce, this is a story of how people with various stakes in a common endeavour react when its integrity is called into question, and how these reactions can be shaped and warped by denial, greed, hatred and love.

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The Honest Look + Experimental Heart
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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (19 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936113112
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936113118
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 645,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer L. Rohn (1967-) was born in Stow, Ohio, received a BA in Biology summa cum laude from Oberlin College in 1990 and a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1996. She moved to London for post-doctoral scientific training and then to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for a stint in a start-up biotech. She is currently runs a cell biology lab at University College London. An avid reader, Rohn had always wondered why there were so few scientist characters in mainstream literature. Coining the term 'lab lit' to describe novels with scientists as central characters, Rohn launched the website ( in 2005 to help promote the use of science and scientist characters in mainstream fiction and to illuminate the world of scientists and laboratory culture. While living in Amsterdam, she wrote two novels about scientists - Experimental Heart, which was inspired by her exploits as a young cancer researcher in London and was published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York in 2008, and The Honest Look, set in a start-up biotech company in the Netherlands and published by CSHLP in 2010. In addition to her activities as a practicing scientist and novelist, Rohn is also a part-time science writer and journalist, broadcaster and sci-lit-art pundit. Her writing has appeared in places including Nature, The Guardian, and The Times, and she has also been featured on TV, radio, podcasts and as an expert in science films. She blogs about the scientific life at Mind The Gap ( and tweets as @jennyrohn - learn more on her website (

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fab lit in the lab lit mould 28 Jun 2011
Very briefly...this is very readable, with a good romantic story which should carry most readers along. Like the author's earlier novel it is firmly routed in its lab setting, rewarding the reader with a scientific background without alienating the rest. No mean feat!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two cultures ... and then some 14 Nov 2010
The cultural divide between the worlds of science and arts has stirred much debate since CP Snow diagnosed it in the 1950s. How much specialisation is good for society, and how much general knowledge from the sciences should extend to the other side of the divide? The idea has inspired several generations of science popularisers, but we rarely read about its effect on people who straddle both sides or are unsure which side they should be on.

The protagonist of "The Honest Look", Claire Cyrus (no relation of Miley I hope) is one of the straddlers. She has just completed a PhD in biology, but is more passionate about writing and reading poetry than about her science, which involves a monstrous proteomic analysis instrument, a machine with the size, complexity, and neediness of the Beckman model E ultracentrifuge from the 1960s (no, I'm not that old, but my PhD supervisor still used two of these in the 90s).

Adding to the culture shock is the fact that her first post-doctoral appointment, taking care of the first commercial specimen of that machine, is in a biotech start-up, where we have the corporate culture conflicting with her hitherto purely academic upbringing. A third cultural divide opens up as the company in question is based in the Netherlands, but most of the scientific staff members are Brits who migrated there with the scientific founders. Oh, and our heroine is bilingual, the child of a Spanish mother and British father.

Unlike Rohn's first lablit novel, "
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful beyond poetry and science 20 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. Like the first one I read, Experimental Heart, it was quite hard at the start, introducing you to the world of biology. I am a chemist so the biology is pretty new to me; the scientific description is amazing but not so much as to put you off. The real story starts after the ground has been built, and it is a whirlwind of deception, love and business strategy. Kept me guessing to the end as to what the outcome would be. I have learnt so much by reading the two books. I hope there are more to come.
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By dersays
I found The Honest Look by Jennifer Rohn to be a hugely enjoyable read. The colourful descriptive text brought Amsterdam to life, creating the setting for a series of engaging characters. Every page left me wanting to know what happened next. Jennifer managed to get the right mix for this novel. As a non-scientist, I could very easily have been overwhelmed by the science, but the story and well written characters carried me along to its end. An obvious ending, but not disappointing. I just loved this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pacey romantic science thriller 3 Dec 2010
Set in the world of scientific research, Jenny Rohn's second novel - The Honest Look - is all about interactions. From the mysterious interplay between proteins buried deep within cells to the emotional interactions between colleagues, friends and lovers, The Honest Look teases them apart to show us how they work.

The plot centres on Dr Claire Cyrus, fresh from her PhD and harbouring a secret double life as a poet. She's one of the three people in the world who can work a mysterious and idiosyncratic machine known as the Interactrex 3000. This beast - seemingly part HAL, part Heath Robinson - hoovers up tiny samples of gloop from cells, identifying the protein players duetting in the molecular ballet within.

Packed off to an up-and-coming biotech company in the Netherlands who have just forked out a significant amount of cash for the machine, Claire's arrival goes unheralded by resentful and dismissive colleagues. She ignores them and settles in to work, but gets distracted by a sexy and charismatic researcher (yes, they do exist, trust me...) and starts working on a sneaky side project - partly to fire up her own scientific mojo, and partly to impress him.

Things start to unravel when Claire makes an unfortunate discovery that throws a dark shadow of doubt on the effectiveness of the company's sole output - a seemingly near-magical drug for Alzheimer's disease. But coming clean gets tricky when she starts an affair with the aforementioned sexy researcher, whose future financial gains are dependent on the company's success.

As we all know, secrets can't stay hidden for long.
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