The Library Lady's Reviews > The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
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Jun 25, 13

bookshelves: adult-non-fiction

If you read my reviews (and thanks if you do) you know that I virtually NEVER give a book 5 stars. Few books deserve it.But I am breaking my own rule on this one.

Most of the adult non-fiction I have read in recent years has been pretentious, badly written and highly overrated by reviewers. And this one is outstanding. From the first page, it reads like a well written novel--only it tells a true story.

It's the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a city created by the government to develop the atomic bomb program. Thousands of men and women come to live and work in Oak Ridge from all over the country, but only a few actually have any sort of idea of what their work is about. It is not until the first atomic bomb is dropped on Japan that the secret comes out--security is that fierce.

Kiernan tells this story from the viewpoints of a number of the women of Oak Ridge, ranging from scientists given the "little woman" treatment to a local girl who discovers her Yankee boss finds her accent amusing and shows her off to other officers for that reason, to an African American janitor who is forced to live under demeaning Jim Crow conditions (she is not allowed to live with her husband and can't bring her children to the complex) but finds ways to keep her dignity intact. Their voices, drawn from many interviews with these women, ring true, and this is one book where the end notes are well worth reading, as she gives more detailed information from those interviews and other background information. This is non-fiction as it should be written and I hope that Kiernan finds another topic to present in such excellent style.
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Reading Progress

05/07/2013 marked as: currently-reading
05/15/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie Skeffington-yake Having recently moved to Oak Ridge, I'm intrigued by the history of the city. I've visited the museum where they have a display dedicated to these women but I'll definitely read this book now. Excellent review


Nancy M. I totally agree with your review.


message 3: by Shantall (new) - added it

Shantall I just started reading this book and agree with you 100%. I cannot wait to finish it.


Laurelbyrne I cannot believe we read the same book. If I had to be read one more passage about the muddy streets or the imposed secrecy ... boring.


The Library Lady Perhaps whoever was reading it to you didn't use much expression in their voice. Suggest you also don't try Dicken's Bleak House, where the first chapter is entirely about the London fog.


Laurelbyrne I thoroughly enjoyed Bleak House. Dicken's prose are poetic.


message 7: by The Library Lady (last edited Sep 06, 2014 06:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

The Library Lady I loved it too. First read it in college and have re-read it a number of times since. And long ago, long before the mini-series version of it was made for TV, I went on a "Dickens Walk" in London. Many of the stops on that particular tour were related to Bleak House and I was the only one on the tour who had read it! :-)
But the imposed secrecy is what makes this story so remarkable. That's why it is emphasized.


Pallavi Kamat Loved your review and the book as well. It is difficult to imagine how the women were expected to work under such strict conditions specially the secrecy aspect.


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