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The Wives of Los Alamos Hardcover – 24 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus (24 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408845997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408845998
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.2 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 565,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

In this fascinating and artful debut, TaraShea Nesbit gives voice to the women closest to one of gravest and most telling moments in our collective history: the development and testing of the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Tender and mundane details of marriage and domesticity quietly collide with the covert and solemn work at hand. With chilling implications and charged, sure-footed prose, this is a novel - and writer - of consequence (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)

Hypnotic and filled with elegiac details; Nesbit offers fascinating and disturbing insight into the secret life of the Los Alamos families (Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles)

I am in awe of this novel. TaraShea Nesbit's brave and brilliant choice of point of view for these women living inside their earth-shattering secret crucible brings home to us in the fullest way possible that our personal story is never just ours. The Wives of Los Alamos will be read and re-read and remembered (Gail Godwin, author of Flora)

A debut novel that manages to be both intimate and detached and is all the more compelling for that **** (RTE Guide)

The story is told by all of the women - not queued up as an oral history , but together in unison as one haunting, communal voice . In the hands of a less certain writer, the narrative style might become grating, but Nesbit pulls it off with impressive control. Lulled by the voice, we know that offstage the historic work is being done . Because we already know the big story, the wives' tale - this diverse, incongruous ensemble - becomes that much more interesting (New York Times)

An insight into the wives of men who worked on the nuclear Manhattan Project in the Forties (Stylist)

Powering the novel is its narrative voice, a collective "we" that represents all the wives. This technique may feel initially distancing, but the rhythmic, hypnotic cadences build momentum to create a unique portrait of a rarely considered aspect of a particular historical moment (Daily Mail)

There's no individual heroine of this terrific novel; Nesbit tells their collective story - and the details of their lives are fascinating ... Mesmerising (The Times)

This is a story that will haunt you, as though the ghosts of the desert replayed the women's lives long after they had returned to their home towns with husbands, who were deeply marked by their achievement (Irish Times)

Nesbit empathises with the scientists' wives and skilfully conveys their bleak predicament, which resembles that of any homemaker suffering from isolation. The book gains in dramatic intensity when the goings-on in the lab start to spill out (Independent)

Book Description

Told in the collective voices of the wives of the men who created the atom bomb, this is the bold and emotionally charged story of the women of Los Alamos

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 24 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Set in the military compound of Los Alamos, New Mexico, where Robert Oppenheimer and his team of physicists worked to create the first atom bomb, this is an intelligent and gripping version of the story. Told through the collective voice of the wives (‘we were more than I, we were Us, we were Us despite our desire for singularity’), this approaches the subject from an interestingly oblique angle, and is as much about the role and status of women in 1940s America as it is about the building of the bomb.

Nesbit writes with a light touch and an eye for telling details: the contrast between the jeans-wearing scientists and their military protectors; the aliases to be used in public for scientists such as Neils Bohr (‘Uncle Nick’), the growing list of forbidden words even when the women didn’t understand their meaning (‘fission’, ‘tube alloy’ as a code for plutonium) and the disconcerting barbed wire fence which reminded some of the women of concentration camps...

The tension after the uses of the bombs is especially well-conveyed, and the way American society moved from the post-war McCarthy era, to Vietnam and the anti-war movement, and the changing social role of women.

This is a short book but one which is beautifully constructed and paced. Some readers might find the use of the first person plural voice (‘we’) all the way through a little disconcerting but I felt that it worked very well to convey the sense of the women as a group as indicated in the title. This manages to pack more story, more detail and more nuance into a small number of pages than many more verbose novels do in twice the number of pages – recommended.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. I. McCulloch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With the events told within this book now on the edges of living memory, TaraShea Nesbit chose to tell this story using a collective voice. The Wives of Los Alamos speak as one, and theirs is an interesting story. The wives of those in public service were historically used to not always knowing what their husbands were doing at work in the interests of security, but in the case of the wives sent to Los Alamos, the levels of security were set sky high. Their husbands would be working on the Manhattan Project, the first atomic bomb. They could tell no-one where, exactly they were living and were even meant to assume alternative identities.

Los Alamos was chosen not just for its desert isolation but also for the beauty of its scenery, which Robert Oppenheimer, the director of scientific operations felt would inspire his scientists. There is a sense of this within the book, but overwhelmingly the story is of frustrating battles against the system and of making do - with shortages of housing, water, fresh food and contact with the outside world. They waded ankle deep in mud from melting snow and summer monsoons. They developed close - knit friendships and many speculated about relationships. All of this is almost perfectly portrayed by Nesbit.
The book reads like a collective biography, far more a work of fact rather than of fiction, but is no less engaging for that. A recommended read for anyone interested in the hidden histories of WW2 and a good springboard for further reading around the topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JK TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The making of the atom bomb as seen by the wives of the scientists working on it's construction during the Second World War, 1940s.

Shipped out to a secure compound in New Mexico, Los Alamos, the women have been uprooted from their normal lives and thrown together behind security checkpoints and barbed wire under the strangest of circumstances. It's quite inevitable a type of sisterhood would develop and it does. This is as much the story of American women of the times as it is the story of Robert Oppenheimer and the bomb. There's a great feeling of movement throughout the plot as the transient population grows ever bigger with the birth of babies and the influx of the workers needed to support both Oppenheimer and the families. There are so many small stories, some tragic, some racy and others just intriguing, tucked inside the main plot it's impossible not to feel involved.

TaraShea Nesbit builds good plot tension as she leads her story towards the first, successful, non atomic explosion of the bomb which leads the reader in just one direction - Japan and the end of the Second World War.

The books isn't long, my hard back copy runs to just 232 pages, and without doubt that helps concentrate the multiple story strands and increases the interest, the anxiety and the uncertainty the reader feels for the characters. There's absolutely no padding used by this author and I found that quite a joyful experience.

My only solitary 'niggle' would be that at first I found the collective 'we' as used to represent the women difficult to deal with. There isn't a single, central character narrating the tale. It's told from the perspective of the wives - all the wives - and they speak in one voice 'we'. The author handles that plural narration well but it did grate on me at the beginning. After a while I stopped noticing because the book's so interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By elsie purdon TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story is based on events that really took place in Los Alamos, New Mexico from 1943 to the end of WW2.
I had never thought about the people involved, the scientists, their families before.
The writing style is also new to me.
The story is told as a collective voice. At first I was irritated but then I began to really like the way this is so inclusive of all the differences of the people undergoing the same experience at the same time. The separateness and unity altogether.
This was such an important event, that would change the world, yet even the wives were not in on what their husbands were doing. Why were they all living in secret, unable to even visit relatives ?
All they knew was that their husbands were scientists, academics, and great physicists. Not all are Americans.
The collective we of the novel is a broad range of women that have to deal with the harshness of life in the desert., and the strangeness of their situation. While separated from their extended families they bond, or don't bond, living together to make a life as best they can, while bringing up children and even having some fun.
There is even some humour, at the General's expense. The military world being so far removed from the Native Indians of this isolated region.
I loved this book. There is sadness because of the topic, inventing the world's first atom bomb.
It is a book I want to reread at least once more, and has also prompted me to look for other books, non-fiction on this subject. At the back of the book the author has included titles of book she found inspiration from, I think many of these are accounts by women that lived the experience.
Definitely recommended read.
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