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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: Atomic City Girls

I read Atomic City Girls because of Amazon's recommendation algorithm, probably because I'd also read Hidden Figures. To my surprise, unlike the other book, it's a novel, not a non-fiction account. The story takes place in Oak Ridge, which unlike Los Alamos, hasn't really been documented as far as I can tell: other than a couple of stories in Richard Feynman's memoir, I don't remember much discussion about it.

The story revolves around June Walker, her roommate Cici, and a few other characters who arrive just as Oak Ridge is ramping up. Each chapter is headed by actual photos of Oak Ridge and the various posters reminding everyone to keep their lips sealed about what they were doing, even though in practice, most of the employees were apparently kept in the dark about the bomb they were building.

As novels go, the characters seem kinda wooden, more as vehicles to tell the story of Oak Ridge rather than people with their own volition. The romance between June Walker and her lover (a former assistant professor from Berkeley) seems awfully contrived, though the rampant nepotism of that era rings through. There's a side plot involving the civil rights movement, but not really enough is told of that facet to make it a major part of the story.

I kept reading hoping to suddenly find some non-fiction account that would reward my perseverance, but alas, none was found.

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