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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,113 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Tuxedo Park, the fascinating story of the 3,000 people who lived together in near confinement for more than two intense and conflicted years under J. Robert Oppenheimer and the world's best scientists to produce the Atomic Bomb and win World War II.

They were told as little as possible.

Their orders were to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and repo
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ebook, 448 pages
Published November 1st 2007 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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Community Reviews

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Mahlon
Jul 01, 2009 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 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 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 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 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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Jared
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating book by the granddaughter of James B. Conant, who administrated the Manhattan Project, tells the "human story" of the creation of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the development of the nuclear bomb near the end of World War II. Though the story is framed as an account of Dorothy McKibbin, the administrator who ran the "front office" of the secret wartime lab at the Santa Fe address that serves as the book's title, it is clearly an homage to J. Robert Oppenheimer and his leade ...more
Susan
Jan 24, 2012 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 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
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Vicky
Jul 14, 2008 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 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 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
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Lisa
Jan 18, 2012 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
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Meredith
Jun 05, 2011 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
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Lynn
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book by Jennet Conant I have read and enjoyed it thoroughly. The book centers on Robert Oppenheimer and several of the main people who worked with him or were in support roles. Conant conducted many interviews and used many personal memoirs to show the relationships as well as the very complicated dynamics among everyone. It does delve into the specifics of the atomic bomb research but is centered more on the people, their personalities, how they meshed together and the lives ...more
Stephanie
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was impressed by the world of Los Alamos when I first visited the museum there a decade ago, and this is the kind of book I have been looking for ever since, and was fortunate enough to stumble upon in its eponymous location.

It is a great concept, retelling the story of the secret laboratory on the mesa with a special focus on Robert Oppenheimer's office manager, Dorothy McKibbin, who was a smart, highly educated, and poetic soul with, it seems, a huge motherly influence on everyone who worked
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Audrey
Jun 11, 2017 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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Pito Salas
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book about Los Alamos. Got interested in the atomic bomb while in Santa Fe. Trinity, Robert Oppenheimer and all that.
LARRY FLICK
May 26, 2017 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.
Cynthia Anderson
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to Los Alamos labs and the world of Oppenheimer.
Terry Dullum
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful account of a fascinating piece of history.
Mary
Jul 15, 2012 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
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Terry
May 01, 2014 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
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Studebhawk
Aug 02, 2015 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
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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
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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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