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Trinity

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  309 ratings  ·  78 reviews
From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters

J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repe
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 4th 2019 by Corsair (first published October 16th 2018)
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3.45  · 
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 ·  309 ratings  ·  78 reviews


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Jessica Woodbury
When you start thinking about Oppenheimer, there is one big place your mind tends to go: how do you live the rest of your life after creating what may be the end of humanity? How do you live knowing all the people who have died because of your discovery? How do you separate the scientific search of knowledge from the human exploitation of that knowledge? In Louisa Hall's novel those questions are definitely there, but they're also secondary to smaller, more personal questions about causing harm ...more
Jill
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction?

Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or relia
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Rebecca
I was a big fan of Speak, Hall’s second novel, a story of artificial intelligence and communication that is composed of six narratives ranging from a seventeenth-century diary to the lament of a robot discarded in the desert in the near future. Trinity again fractures the message through a lot of different voices: seven “testimonials” from fictional narrators whose lives overlapped with Robert Oppenheimer’s between 1943 and 1966. They include Los Alamos and Princeton colleagues, acquaintances fr ...more
Jill
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction?

Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or relia
...more
Conor
Well, well, well, this was a treat.

"Trinity" follows the personal life and later career of J. Robert Oppenheimer, so-called father of the atomic bomb and quoter of the Bhagavad Gita ("Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds"). It sketches a picture of him through the reactions of ten or so people, some of whom knew him well, others barely at all. Maybe it's because it takes place in the same heady time period as most of his oeuvre, but this book felt very influenced by Don DeLillo--the ch
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Jill Meyer
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never of novelist Louisa Hall before I read her new book, "Trinity". Set in a range of places from Los Alamos to Princeton to San Francisco, the book tells the story - a story - about J Robert Oppenheim, developer of the atomic bomb. Hall does this by writing "short stories" as chapters, using narrators who often have a sketchy connection with Oppenheimer and his life. The reader soon realises that some of these narrators are less than reliable in the stories and interpretations they're gi ...more
KC
Through various narrative, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances reveal through interconnected accounts the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant scientist and man behind the atomic bomb. Over multiple years, lives are compromised and destroyed in more ways than one, leaving us to ponder the phrases "a weapon to end the use of all weapons" and "a violence to end all other forms of violence". This work of historic fiction will leave readers with a great deal to contemplate.
Christopher Saunders
This novel opaquely recounts the life and career of J. Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb, through a series of first person vignettes involving people who knew him at different stages in his life. It’s an interesting approach, if not a wholly original one: Rashomon is the obvious comparison, though I’m more reminded of Howard Fast’s work, particularly Spartacus, where the protagonist is discussed, analyzed, idolized or demonized from the perspective of others without ever appearing d ...more
Jo
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fictional narrative about James Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb and how he lived his life after his role in causing so much death and destruction. But the book also hits on the McCarthyism of the time and Oppenheimer’s cheating on his wife, Kitty, which he ends up testifying to in court. Seven fictional narrators tell the story from seven different perspectives and it becomes clear that we never really know what is going on in another’s mind or what their true motives or feelings may be.
John
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book for several reasons: a personal fascination with Oppenheimer, a lack of knowledge of his career post-1945, but even more so the approach the author took, looking at him thru the eyes of 7 people who crossed paths with him over the years.
Anna
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-faves
So as not to spoil the delight of discovering the main theme of Trinity for yourself (it’s expressly stated some two thirds into the book, by Robert Oppenheimer himself), I’d suggest not reading the reviews too closely.
It’d also be hard to explain how the character of Oppenheimer relates to the stories told in this book without leading anyone into conclusions that are best arrived at on your own.
(I realise that this is a non-review but just trust me on this.)
Nick
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting read, and Hall does a remarkable job of giving all of the different narrators a distinct voice. I liked the concept of trying to understand Oppenheimer through the people who interacted with him, even tangentially. But the conclusion was somewhat unsatisfying, which may have been the point, but it still was a little disappointing.
Alice
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After an intriguing start, this book dropped off a cliff for me. The first few chapters were clever, fun to read and kept me interested. As the book continued however, I found the chapters less and less interesting. The last chapter made me cringe. Page after page of similar thoughts and feelings having to do with an infidelity. In fact, I skipped paragraphs (which I almost never do) in frustration. It could be my fault -- that I don't quite understand what the infidelity chapter added to Oppenh ...more
Doctor Moss
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Robert Oppenheimer is a prime figure for both fictional and non-fictional interpretation. He stands personally at a sharp inflection point in twentieth century history, as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

Oppenheimer is a kind of Faustian character. He took on leadership of an ambitious program in both physics and engineering, and he was triumphant. But his triumph was incomprehensibly tragic. The war had seen the development and use of terrible weapons of ever-increasing destructiveness and ter
...more
Rāhul
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Oppenheimer, whose biography was aptly titled American Prometheus, was a renaissance man. He stood tall among the great generation of physicists in the mid-20th century who dealt with the awesome power of the atomic weaponry that was a consequence of their ingenuity. Having led the Manhattan project, he was discredited publicly during the McCarthy years for ties to Communism, but was later rehabilitated, and is now seen as a victim of the political excesses of the period. In this novel st ...more
Trina
I’m impressed by the author’s skill in crafting this work of fiction. It’s a collection of narratives, delivered in the form of testimonials, from those caught up in the orbit of the “father” of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. The symbolic importance of the title Trinity extends not just to his marriage + suspicious love affair, but also to the holy faith he & other scientists in the Manhattan Project put into developing the A-bomb. Then there’s the triangular compact between writer-sub ...more
Mich
Trinity is the name J. Robert Oppenheimer gave to the test of the atom bomb at Los Alamos prior to its bombing of Hiroshima. The characters in this novel by Louisa Hall are both fictional and real. Hall uses seven characters in seven chapters to describe their recollections/testaments through interactions with Oppenheimer.
Some of these interactions are so minor, they hardly add to the understanding of Oppenheimer and are more descriptive of the persons recounting their own lives. Other chapters
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Ian Brydon
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Oppenheimer is an interesting character. He is, of course, best known for leading the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos which led to the development and delivery of the atom bombs used against Japan in 1945. Earlier in his career he had been Professor of Physics at Berkeley, and had also supported a range of liberal campaigns that would subsequently be deemed to have amounted to Communist sympathies during the McCarthy era. As a consequence he was grilled by the House Un-American Affairs Co ...more
Clio
I read Speak last year when the cover called to me from a library shelf. When this came out I wanted to read it right away because there is something so different, so special about Louisa Hall's writing. She makes me fall in love over and over again with her characters. Somehow she switches between them frequently and they're flawed and maybe typically "unlikeable"but she makes me understand them so well I love them - which is especially interesting in this book threaded with the question of "ho ...more
Toni
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I gave this book a 4 star rating for two unusual reasons. #1 - I learned a lot about Tobert Oppenheimer - not a go-to subject for me but the format of the story gave information without it being overwhelmingly just facts. #2 - The format the author used to present the story was unusual yet very enjoyable. The author presented seven fictional characters to tell the story of how they knew Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb), the time frame that they knew him and insight into his life as ...more
Sunhawk
At the end, I felt betrayed by this book ...as perhaps I was meant to, as the book is about betrayal, starting with the atomic level, where we cannot trust what we see because it's influenced by who, what, and where we ourselves are. This general application of the principle of uncertainty, clearly not what was precisely meant by Heisenberg, but an intriguing mis-application nevertheless, makes for interesting reading. Each of the speakers in this book digresses into how his or her own life was ...more
Glen U
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Trinity" is billed as a fictional biography about the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. In a series of vignettes, utilizing seven fictional characters and some true facts and documented situations that actually occurred, Hall pieces together a book about human nature using Oppenheimer, as her focal point. She infers the emotions that Oppenheimer went through in his early life at Berkeley, his development of the atomic bomb during World War 2, his guilt and resistance of it being us ...more
Rachel
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Oppenheimer is an historical figure whose life has touched everyone alive in the world today. A brilliant scientist, a backer of liberal causes, creator with his team of the A bomb, ushered in the nuclear era at the behest of the US President.

The Manhattan Project was a super secret project in the desert that most Americans did not know about until the drop of bombs on Japan.

During his lifetime he was a supporter of liberal causes, accused of being a "Red", investigated by Hoover and aft
...more
David
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Until the last 80 pages of this 320 page novel, I read ready to give it a 5. It is, as the jacket describes it, an "elliptical" story, told from various points of view, about Oppenheimer and the bomb. More than that, it is a novel about public and private tragedy, power, guilt, and betrayal, about the uncertainty of our knowledge (and science), unintended and intended consequences, about humans, yes but resonating with the power of Greek myth.

The last chapter then falls into a slough of OCD det
...more
David Jacobson
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trinity is a biographical novel in which the subject—Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb—enters only obliquely, from time to time. The book is primarily a collection of seven short stories about seven other characters who encountered Oppenheimer at different points in their lives, and in his life. This format, in which the main subject is always studied from afar, has the effect of restoring Oppenheimer to the way he was viewed during his life: as a larger-than-life, history-changing f ...more
Paolo Latini
Decisamente meno coeso del precedente SPEAK, che nonostante fosse romanzo polifonico, ruotava attorno a una questione ben definita, quella delle intelligenze artificiali. TRINITY invece si legge più come una raccolta di racconti più o meno correlati dal fatto che i vari protagonisti hanno sfiorato o visto la vita di Oppenheimer tra il 1943 e il 1966. La cosa che accomuna le varie storie che compongono questo mosaico è che tutte hanno a che fare con fedeltà, tradimento e colpa, in vari modi, e in ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I enjoyed the concept -- that a series of fictional persons who had interacted with Oppenheimer at various points -- could shed light on who he was a complex, great, flawed person.

The final narrator: "And yet, watching him now, I realized how small and weak he really was. I realized that he, too, lived in the same uncertain world, and that he had always lived in that world, even when hew as making those weapons, imagining he was in control of their outcome, not yet knowing that he in fact had n
...more
Chelsea Martinez
This is probably the right book about Robert Oppenheimer for someone like me to read... I am curious about the era and the decision-making, but I'm not interested in reading a straightforward biography or getting into any hagiography/demonizing of the man. This book tells a story of Oppenheimer as a colleague, friend, boss, vacation acquaintance, etc. and captures the overall arc of his success and late-life persecution. He's not a minor figure, but if you do want a biography, you'll probably ge ...more
Anne Goodwin
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What kind of man could build a bomb that killed 129,000 people and maimed many more? How did he live with himself afterwards? Louisa Hall’s thoughtful third novel takes a sideways look at Robert Oppenheimer through the “testimonials” of seven fictional characters whose lives momentarily brushed against his. From the secret agent who tails him in San Francisco in 1943, when he goes dancing with a former lover and suspected communist sympathiser, to the journalist of American and Japanese heritage ...more
Leslie Padgett
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy local author Louisa Hall’s writing. I had read her book on artificial intelligence called Speak last year and it was similar to this in that she weaves historical characters with fictional ones to tell a story through several different first person accounts. This one followed the life of Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project. This type of fiction and subject matter are not what I normally read. But her writing is at times lyrical and haunting in a way that relates some ...more
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