Tuesday, April 18, 2017

109 East Palace by Jennet Conant (on CD)

109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos
by Jennet Conant [Compact Disc 623.451 Con + Hoopla] 

I picked this up because after reading The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan, I was intrigued to learn more about the Manhattan Project. That book focused on the secret town of Oakridge, in Tennessee, where the uranium was being refined, whereas this book focuses on the secret location of the research center of Los Alamos, in New Mexico. What was interesting before even it even starts is that the author is the granddaughter of James B. Conant, a major figure in the project. Her personal connection to the topic is put forth in the preface, and grows through the book around Dorothy McKibbin, the gatekeeper to Los Alamos. Before anyone was allowed in, or even knew exactly where to go, they had to be issued a security pass from the office in Santa Fe by Dorothy. The book takes us through Dorothy’s life before, during and after the war. During the project, the book discusses the goings on at Los Alamos, the lives of the scientists, their families and often Oppenheimer himself. The whole project from inception, picking a site, testing, dropping the bomb, the end of the war, into the Red Scare that Oppenheimer found himself involved in, and right up to his death and Dorothy’s is covered. It did also look at the various reactions of the scientists and others living at Los Alamos on the aftermath of the bomb test and the two dropped on Japan. The feeling varied, some were pleased to contribute to bringing the war to an end and others were horrified at themselves. I really felt like whole story was here, but bearing in mind that the whole operation at Oakridge was an entire book to itself, I still wanted to hear more. It’s fascinating to me how such a large project, at both locations, was kept a secret, even to those living there. It was not quite so hush hush within Los Alamos as it was in Oakridge, however one of the world’s grandest scientific projects all in a small little community of scientists and other workers is just captivating to me. I recommend both of these books if you are interested in secret science towns as they go so well together. I listened to the audio versions of both and thought the narrators were good, although I did pick up a copy of the books too because there are photos included that I didn’t want to miss out on. Very good read even for those who don’t normally read history books.

[Another book you may like is Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, written by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm; it’s a graphic novel and really does a good job at explaining the science behind the story. You may also enjoy Antarctica: A Year on Ice, by which is a documentary on the McMurdo science lab in Antarctica, not exactly a secret, but still a place only very few people are allowed.]

[ publisher’s official 109 East Palace web site ] | [ publisher’s official Jennet Conant web site ]

Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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