They were greeted by Dorothy McKibbin, an attractive widow who was the least likely person imaginable to run a front for a clandestine defense laboratory. They stepped through her threshold into a parallel universe, the desert hideaway where Robert Oppenheimer and a team of world-famous scientists raced to build the first atomic bomb before Germany and bring World War II to an end.
Despite all the obstacles, Oppie managed to forge a vibrant community at Los Alamos through the sheer force of his personality. Dorothy devoted herself to taking care of him and his crew, and supported him through the terrifying preparations for the test explosion at Trinity and the harrowing aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In this deeply moving account, Conant reveals an enigmatic man who served his country at tremendous personal cost and whose singular achievement, and subsequent undoing, is at the root of our present nuclear predicament.
©2005 Jennet Conant; (P)2005 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS in an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"Conant brings to life the colorful, eccentric town of thousands that sprang up on a New Mexico mesa and achieved the unthinkable." (Publishers Weekly)
I have long been fascinated by the Manhattan Project and what happened at Los Alamos and have read a number of books on the subject. When I saw a review of "109 East Palace", I knew this was a book that would interest me. I was delighted to find it available on Audible and it was as good as I expected. My only criticism is that the only available version on Audible is abridged. I have an aversion to abridged books. It's like looking at a balck and white copy of the Mona Lisa and trying to gain some sense of the impact of the original. I realize some people who are in a rush prefer them but I wish we had a choice of abridged and unabridged versions as we do with some Audible titles. If you are interested in the history of Los Alamos, this is a book you should have.
The sound quality is great, the narration is clear and professional. Oddly there is a dreamy sentimental quality about the production ( I mean this in a good way), so much of the book feels friendly and informative like listening to a favorite clear minded Aunt filling you in on the missing pieces of handed down family stories. Finally, you feel like you have the whole picture given to you by one who knows, someone who was there - no more rumors! Probably not the best book to listen too if you are missed some important hours of sleep, the narrator's voice is so calm and soothing you may very well find yourself studying the undersides of your eyelids.
The prelude to the book is read by the author which, personally, I appreciate. It is surprising how much personal and reflective material has been out there simply waiting for J.Conant to collect and organize. She's done a good job of presenting information that could easily be boring. In a straight forward way she uses everyday details and reflections found in seemingly mundane sources of scientists, office workers, and their family members involved in this enormous enterprise in such a way that it's easy to feel like I would recognize 1950's Los Alamos if I stumbled on it through a time warp.
I especially enjoyed the tidbits that described what outsiders thought about this mysterious place, and descriptions of the conditions within the community. Good book. Balanced writing of a touchy subject. This is a book about people and places not of political positioning or the mechanical creation of the bomb. Easily recommendable.
Top 5. I am now on a Manhattan project binge.
I visited Sante Fe, saw 109 E Palace and stayed at the La Fonda before I heard the book. I couldn't get enough. I knew next to nothing about the Manhattan Project and nothing at all about the men involved. This moving little book is a great place to start if you have any interest in the MP. I can imagine the tzunami of men coming and going from that town 50 or 60 years ago. This is a great book.
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