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109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos
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109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,087 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
Conant, author of the bestselling Tuxedo Park, offers a human look at the brilliant physicists who for more than two years, along with their families, lived, laughed, despaired and rejoiced in a secret, sequestered, for some claustrophobic city in the New Mexico desert. Despite its grand name, 109 East Palace was the nondescript office in Santa Fe that served as a gateway ...more
Hardcover, 425 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2005)
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Studebhawk The native culture of this area of New Mexico traces back to the old Spanish settlements led by Jesuit priests who attempted to convert the natives.…moreThe native culture of this area of New Mexico traces back to the old Spanish settlements led by Jesuit priests who attempted to convert the natives. The Acoma pueblo is an example.After several trips to the area we were fascinated by this cultural highlight.After the flight of so many Spanish born from the horrors of the Inquisition in Spain, we discovered traces of very old Jewish settlers in the Santa Fe area as well. The cultural mix and the history of old New Mexico settlers is a story that bears more understanding from our Anglo perspective.(less)

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Mahlon
Jul 01, 2009 Mahlon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes history from a woman's perspective or WWII
Recommended to Mahlon by: Amazon
Shelves: read-2009
109 East Palace by Jennet Conant offers a fresh look at the story of the Manhattan Project, America's secret effort to build the Atom-bomb which eventually ended WWII. The author decided to tell the story through the eyes of Dorthy Mckibbion, who ran the project's office in Santa Fe, and the wives and children of the scientists who worked on "the hill" as the residents quickly took to calling Los Alamos. Conant also discusses how the people of Santa Fe reacted to the changes that WWII brought to ...more
Natalie
Nov 26, 2013 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is history made human - I really appreciated that Jennet Conant didn't end her storytelling with the Trinity Site Test or at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The reader learns the shape of the land that would become home to Robert Oppenheimer's group as they raced to build the bomb. We come to know the story of many of the project's personalities, struggles, and achievements. What is exceptional about these stories is the way they weave together and include frank looks at the pre-war and post-war live
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Beth
Nov 10, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What first struck me about this book was that it was so readable. The first chapter paints a beautiful picture of “father of the atomic bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer’s first meeting with Dorothy McKibben, a laid back Santa Fean who would become “the gatekeeper” to Los Alamos. Through Dorothy’s eyes, Conant shows us the story of Los Alamos, the scientists who came there, and the atomic bomb — and the charming man behind it all, “Oppie.”

I am familiar with much of the stories surrounding wartime Los
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Ruby
Apr 13, 2009 Ruby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Having lived in Santa Fe and visited Los Alamos on a number of occasions, this book was particularly interesting to me. It gave a close up look at the many individuals who developed the Atomic Bomb, particularly Oppenheimer and his public relations aide, Dorothy. There is quite a picture of how these people tolerated (mostly with heavy drinking) the privations of isolation from family, poor living conditions, and crisis of conscience after the bomb. It was interesting to note the difference in t ...more
Jeff Dawson
Dec 11, 2016 Jeff Dawson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great read. I can’t say enough about the insight Jennet Conant puts into this work. She has done a masterful job weaving the intricacies of the bomb development, political up-heavel and meshing of over inflated egos into a precise, easy to digest, complex subject matter.
We all know Oppenheimer was dubbed, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” but how was he able to do it is the real story.
We were in a race to beat Germany to the draw. Everyone knew, if Hitler got there first, he’d waste no t
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Susan
Jan 24, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About 18 months ago, we visited Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of our "out West" trip. It's the city located high on a mesa in the middle of the desert, formed solely to work on creating the bomb that ended WWII in the 1940s. I was totally fascinated by the place, and this is the 2nd or 3rd book on the topic I've read since.

"109 East Palace" is so named because that's the address of the office in Santa Fe where all the folks hired to work at Los Alamos went when they first arrived. Inside the u
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Benj FitzPatrick
Dec 26, 2012 Benj FitzPatrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the first order of business I'd like to give this novel 4.5 stars. With that finished we can move on to the more interesting bits. For having grown up in Los Alamos and working at the national lab for 5 summers I know shockingly little about the town's war years. In fact, this was my first foray into reading a book detailing the Manhattan Project. I will try to keep the nostalgic influence for my childhood home to a minimum. My initial realization during the first hundred pages was how well C ...more
Kristal Cooper
This is the story of the first atomic bomb, told biographically by piecing together memoirs of many key players from 1940s Los Alamos. The idea was surely inspired by the fact that the author’s grandfather was an administrator for the Manhattan Project, so he knew everyone and eventually shared some of the stories with his family.



The problem is that physicists and professors just aren’t very interesting people. The first 100 pages, as the "characters" are all introduced, was some of the most dre
...more
Vicky
Jul 14, 2008 Vicky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a bargain table book. What a find! It was written by the granddaughter of James B. Conant, administrator of the Manhattan Project.

Although I was too young to remember this time in our history, I have always had an interest in WWII. I really enjoyed this book...the story of Los Alamos, NM and the secret project to create an atomic weapon. The 'behind the scene' relationships between scientist, military personnel, civilians, and government lend a personal aspect to the story. The familial
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Linconter
Feb 25, 2010 Linconter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most interesting book. A tad hard to get into at the outset, but by the middle of the book you felt like you were living on that high plateau with the wind constantly blowing! I think part of the hesitation was my fault, because I thought it was going to be a fictional account, so the painstaking research that the author did surprised me. Nora Gallaher wrote Changing Light, about a scientist who "escapes" from Los Alamos after he learns that the bomb won't be used against Germany but instead aga ...more
Catherine Hurst
Jan 18, 2011 Catherine Hurst rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a riveting story of the building of the bomb at Los Alamos 1943-1945. Since my Dad had the opportunity to go on the Manhattan Project (and decided against it) and I currently live in New Mexico, I found it personally interesting as well. Great characters brought to life and very thorough research.....

I was fascinated by the two "lead characters"--Robert Oppenheimer and Dorothy McKibben. It sounds like Oppenheimer might have been the only guy who could have pulled this off, and I am horri
...more
Lisa
Jan 18, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truly fascinating. A great history professor recommended this book and 5 years later I finally got around to finishing it. It's a little dry and long winded in some parts but she does a brilliant job humanizing the players.

My grandparent's home is on Palace Ave in Santa Fe, and I love reading about this tiny corner of the world during one my favorite historical periods. I have also been to Trinity Site, and there's this energy that hangs in the air there, It's very electric.

I think Oppenheimer
...more
Meredith
Jun 05, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book on the..social...aspects of the Manhattan Project, giving good insight into the obstacles faced by J. Robert Oppenheimer as he shepherded a large group of scientists toward the goal of designing a nuclear weapon. While other books have been written on the science of this effort, this is the best description of the human effort that went into the project - particularly on the problems faced by the scientists and their families while living in isolation in Los Alamos. Opp ...more
Pamela
Dec 17, 2013 Pamela rated it really liked it
Extensively informative and broad-scoped. Clarity of focus and presentation. Well-documented citations of personal interviews and numerous resource documents. Additionally, considering the topic, it isn't dry or over technical, rather, it flows quite fluid and friendly. The only drawbacks are - too wordy in places regarding sub-topics of lesser importance, duplication of information such as the deplorable housing conditions and baby booms...repeated in numerous chapters. Overall, a very good enl ...more
Carol Catinari
Aug 30, 2011 Carol Catinari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In light of my new found interest in all things New Mexico, I got this book on cd. So far, very interesting. Just the assembling of the team and the personalities involved is already engaging. On my next trip there, I hope to visit Los Alomos.

The "next trip there" has come and gone, and I did visit Los Alamos. The book added to my interest in L.A., and L.A. added to my enjoyment of the book....
Barbie-Q
Cool assemblage of stories about working at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. Makes me ponder: what if my calling in life was to build the most horrible/destructive weapon imaginable?
Christine Nierenz
Parts of this book were little slow, but I enjoyed reading the history about this project, not knowing much about it before I read it.
Audrey
Jun 11, 2017 Audrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For many Americans, the movie "The Day After" comprises all of our knowledge about the atomic bomb. This book details the selection of a rather unexpected scientist to be Director of the Los Alamos Project, the establishment of the site, and the ongoing work and security involved to keep it secret from the rest of the world. It is also an acknowledgement of the loyalty and determination of Dorothy McKibbin who managed to make the scientists marooned at Los Alamos fell more at home while protecti ...more
John
May 03, 2017 John rated it liked it
An interesting account of the birth and growth of Los Alamos. Not a technical history of the development of the bomb so much as a history of the site and many of its luminaries. It focuses mainly on Oppenheimer and the remarkable Santa Fe resident Dorothy McKibbin gatekeeper and surrogate mother of the site. The latter part of the book deals with Oppie's run-ins with the witch-hunting cold-warriors who managed to destroy him.
LARRY FLICK
May 26, 2017 LARRY FLICK rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A-Bomb the way it was

Interesting, lot of unknown facts, information on how they lived there. Went down hill for me after the bomb was used.
Terry Dullum
Mar 08, 2017 Terry Dullum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful account of a fascinating piece of history.
Mary
Jul 15, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
The gripping and well-written back story of Los Alamos. Told mostly through the lens of Dorothy McKibben, the gatekeeper, and Oppenheimer. Many of the people who went there and arrived in Santa Fe did not even know where exactly they were going (Los Alamos), but were just told to go to 109 East Palace in Santa Fe. McKibben handled all the complicated logistics competently and in good humor.
After taking over a boys' camp, Los Alamos was a city built quickly and at first everything was muddy and
...more
Terry
May 01, 2014 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
I read Richard Rhode's more exhaustive description of the Manhattan Project, this book builds more on Oppenheimer's character. Rhode's left me wondering if bombing Japan was necessary and this book makes me believe it was not. Here's why:
WWII was all consuming and the military was thoroughly set on development of the atomic bomb. When FDR died and Truman took over just after Germany's defeat, General Groves didn't slow his efforts to stop Japan, our last enemy. Japan was isolated and if we were
...more
Studebhawk
Aug 02, 2015 Studebhawk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doorkeeper for a New Era

With family living in the Taos area for some time, we have had the pleasure to travel throughout New Mexico cities and pueblos many times. With each visit we learned more about the history and culture of New Mexico and its people.
The story of the Manhattan Project hovers over the Santa Fe area in the same way that Los Alamos looks down on the area from high atop the mesa. Much of the early development of New Mexico in the 20th century stems from the massive government
...more
Grammarbroad
Enjoyed reading about this era, which transcends a personal gap. History ends just before a person is born. Then there is a void, followed by the current era, which is present, not past, and which cannot be viewed objectively. My personal History ends with WWII, and then there is the void period - my gap - and then there is what I know and remember for myself, and have no objectivity about. This book transcends what I know about the history of WWII, informs my understanding of what happened just ...more
Brian
109 East Palace provides a succinct account of how the a city of Los Alamos came about and how through that city the atom bomb was developed. The story of the atom bomb is one of the most fascinating in history from all points of view (history, military, science, political) and there is no doubt that Richard Rhodes provides the definitive account on the matter. What I find refreshing about Connat's book is that it takes a more humanistic view and shows how the people working on the bomb were aff ...more
Inessa
Sep 25, 2013 Inessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book to read to get a perspective on what went on at Los Alamos during Manhattan Project. As noted by othe reviewers, the book does not contain a lot a scientific information/background. However, it provides interesting accounts about Oppenheimer's amazing, brilliant, and charismatic personality. People like that are phenomenon in the entire human history and are born few in between. So every memory, account of this man is important to preserve. Some portions of the book are more ...more
Timothy Caldwell
I visited Los Alamos this summer because I knew that the atomic bomb was developed there. That was before I read 109 East Palace. Conant has taken what, for other writers, might be dry history and turned it into a beautifully written, captivating story of the fears and struggles to create the bomb. It is a love story as well–in the purest Platonic sense–between the two main characters: J Robert Oppenheimer and Dorothy McKibbin, the gatekeeper for the project.

McKibbin is one of those people who
...more
Johna Van
On a recent trip to Santa Fe, we visited Los Alamos, that is the place where the Atomic Bomb was created. This is the story of how that all transipired written be the granddaughter of one of the physicists that played a major role along with Oppenheimer and others. I knew very little about the bomb before I read this book. It is easy for us to look back and point fingers at the bomb creation, but given the circumstances, I can see how the American people really had little choice in the matter. R ...more
Helen
May 31, 2015 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have an inherent fascination for anything WWII and I believe that it comes from my need to understand how the world became so intolerant and angry to the extent that much of it got drawn into war and one that was so very devastating. I also feel the need to understand those world events through the eyes of those who actually lived the events in order to not impose my perspective on what occurred. Los Alamos seemingly grew up overnight so my understanding of how the bomb was created was missing ...more
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Jennet Conant is an American non-fiction author and journalist. She has written four best selling books about World War II, three of which have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Asia and America, she received a BA degree in Political Theory from Bryn Mawr College in 1982, and double-majored in Philosophy at Haverford College. She completed a
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“For the first few weeks in Santa Fe, Oppenheimer and his key staff worked out of the office at 109 East Palace Avenue in the early mornings and made daily trips up to Los Alamos to inspect the progress of the construction. "The laboratories at the site were in a sketchy state, but that did not deter the workers," Dorothy wrote of those hectic early days. "In the morning buses, consisting of station wagons, sedans, or trucks, would leave 109 and pick up the men at the ranches and take them up the Hill. Occasionally, a driver would forget to stop at one or another of the ranches and the stranded and frustrated scientists would call in a white heat.” 0 likes
“her sisters die and then falling under the same shadow” 0 likes
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