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Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II
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Group Reads Archive > May 2014- Tuxedo Park by Jennet Conant

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Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I've only made it through the preface, but already I'm excited to see where this goes.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Wonder if we could track down the book Richards wrote before he died. That might make a good one for BYT to read.


message 4: by Barbara (last edited May 15, 2014 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Barbara Have just started this and I must say, so far it is very interesting. Alas, I'm only on the 4th chapter, so I don't have much to say. I wasn't thrilled with the choice--thought it might be too much science for my taste. However, Loomis was a fascinating character. Also interesting to read about Henry Stimson, whose name I knew as secretary of war, and James Conant, once president of Harvard. The fact that the book was written by a relative of Conant's, with access to private papers, adds to the interest as well. Will report back as I get further into the book.
I hope someone else is going to read it. Are you making headway Jennifer?


message 5: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I started this. I had it before it was chosen. What I found most interesting was Jennet Conant's relationship. She's exploring a family "mystery".


Barbara Jennifer W wrote: "Wonder if we could track down the book Richards wrote before he died. That might make a good one for BYT to read."

Just out of curiosity, I looked it up on Alibris. There is one copy--for a mere $1500.00!!! Don't think we'll be reading it anytime soon....


message 7: by Barbara (last edited May 15, 2014 02:45PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Barbara Oops. I missed a copy that is only $495.00. Hehe.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Oops. I missed a copy that is only $495.00. Hehe."

Oh, is that all? That's too bad, I do think it'd be interesting for the group. He clearly was an insider and was willing (and able) to publish some pretty detailed accounts of what work was being done on the Manhattan Project and other scientific research.

I haven't had a chance to read much further than chapter 2 or 3, but I intend to pick it back up this weekend. I, too, recognize some of the "characters" from a previous reading of The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Also, the section on Einstein writing a letter to the President was on a History Channel show about 10 events that changed US history.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Jan C wrote: "I started this. I had it before it was chosen. What I found most interesting was Jennet Conant's relationship. She's exploring a family "mystery"."

I hadn't expected that angle of the book when I picked it up, but I love those sort of things, kind of like A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness & a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression that we read a few months ago.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm up to chapter 5. I appreciate how Loomis didn't want the limelight for his scientific work. I also find the antisemitism of Tuxedo Park interesting. Not surprising, but I wonder how it's going to carry on after the start of WWII.

I'm not entirely understanding the parts about clocks (I know atomic clocks come soon and are generally considered the most accurate), but I find Loomis' constant checking of the various clocks and comparing how far off they get endearing.


message 11: by Val (new) - rated it 1 star

Val I did not get far with this unfortunately. I might give it another try some time.


message 12: by Nigeyb (last edited May 24, 2014 05:12AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Why not Val?


I am considering reading this book if there's a favourable response during this discussion, so curious to know what other make of it.

It looks as though no one's finished it so far despite some encouraging early comments.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm going to pick it up again this weekend.

Speaking for myself, the enthusiastic writing style and the emotions that came through in the prologue have not really carried over to the main book. While interesting, it's a bit dry. There's references to the scientists stocking up on booze for the weekends, but then there's page after page of how Loomis wanted a perfectly, scientifically, accurate clock and how he obtained several and tested them against each other. I guess I'd have rather read about drunk scientists!

I do intend to finish it, but I'm so far disappointed that given the times it's not a little more interesting.


message 14: by Val (new) - rated it 1 star

Val It starts with a detailed account of someone committing suicide, then abandons that and starts on a very detailed biography of Loomis and his family. The problem is that at this point I had no reason to find Loomis all that interesting and reading it made him less so. I suppose the suicide might be a 'teaser' for something interesting, but I'm not really that bothered (poor chap).
Then there was a really, really, bad description of an experiment which made me swear loudly, throw the book in a corner and leave it there for three weeks.


message 15: by Nigeyb (last edited May 24, 2014 07:22AM) (new)

Nigeyb Thanks Jennifer. Thanks Val.


That's very helpful.

I chuckled at this imagery...

Val wrote: "Then there was a really, really, bad description of an experiment which made me swear loudly, throw the book in a corner and leave it there for three weeks. "

I think, for now at least, I'll give it a miss. Although...

Jennifer W wrote: "I do intend to finish it..."

...maybe there will be a big final act that will improve matters?

In terms of our non-fiction reads, I'm coming to the conclusion that I feel much more enthused when they cover a topic that I already have an interest in (e.g. Brideshead Revisited, or the Murphys, or the Mitfords etc.) or something that makes me feel immediately interested. Without that initial pull, I frequently struggle. Conversely I'm much more inclined to approach pretty much any fiction with an open mind and a sense of enthusiastic anticipation.


message 16: by Val (last edited May 24, 2014 09:54AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Val I am interested in some of the research that was done there, but I don't really have enough patience to keep reading until I get to it or enough confidence that it will be explained well, so I just looked it up elsewhere. I don't see the development of atomic weapons as something positive, but some scientists there also worked on refinements to radar systems.


Barbara This book was too science-oriented to be my cup of tea. I would never have read it if it hadn't been the Bright Young Things reading selection this month. When things got too scientific, my eyes glazed over and I found myself doing a lot of skimming.

Nonetheless, it was fairly interesting. Alfred Loomis was a fascinating character. He took a "hobby" to incredible lengths and became a well known scientist.

It was interesting to me to read about his friend/colleague Ernest Lawrence. I live fairly close to the Lawrence Livermore Lab which I've heard of all my life. I had never known who it was named after. Lawrence was unbelievably single-minded--he was so focused on his research that he barely knew there was a war on.

One of the interesting episodes was the story of the British Tizard Mission. A group of British scientists came to the States with a box of scientific secrets. At one point, there was no room in a vehicle for this top-secret box and it was strapped to the top of the car! Previously, it wouldn't fit into the safe that was reserved for it, so it had to be stowed under a bed. Later, it was locked up in an embassy's wine cellar. Once the box of secrets was finally safe, there were still trust issues between the British and American scientists until they finally began to work together.

The description of the creativity and camaraderie among the scientists made me think of what I've heard of the early days of Apple and computer development.

The chapter entitled The Blitz said "There was a general feeling of chaos and things building toward a crisis, and it tended to make people more casual than they might have been in more orderly times. Later, the dim-outs made it hard to get around at night, and the darkness no doubt covered a multitude of sins." This was reminiscent of The Love-Charm of Bombs.

While reading this book, I thought about how war has often lead to advancements in technology and medicine--a very imperfect "redeeming factor" to the otherwise horrific consequences of war.

I would have been much more interested in seeing this story in a Ken Burns-style documentary. As a book, it was kind of rough going for me. Still, it's good to read something so far out of my normal range.


message 18: by Val (last edited May 24, 2014 11:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Val It sounds as if the book falls between two stools Barbara, too much 'science' for those who aren't interested in it and the science discussed with too little understanding for those who are.
Perhaps the book should have been structured differently, with the science left out of the main text and included in appendices written by a popular science author; then we both might have ended up with something we wanted to read.


Barbara Yes, Val, that would have been better. There WERE good parts to it, but just not enough. Oh well. Not all of our group reads are going to be successes...


message 20: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Barbara. I enjoyed reading your thoughts - well done for sticking with it, and thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion.

Thanks Val too. I think your summary may have nailed the issue most BYTers seem to have experienced...

...too much 'science' for those who aren't interested in it and the science discussed with too little understanding for those who are...


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "^ Thanks Barbara. I enjoyed reading your thoughts - well done for sticking with it, and thanks for taking the time to add to the discussion.

Thanks Val too. I think your summary may have nailed ..."


I agree with Val as well. What science I understand in the book is stuff I already knew. I also agree with Val's previous comments that the suicide of the author's relative set me up believing that I would get a different story and then when it switched to Loomis, I felt like I'd been fooled.

I am a little farther. It did perk up a bit when it talked about Loomis' affair and with some of the build up of WWII, but now that they're starting to collaborate in designing radar, it's gotten bogged down again.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I finished this book, and I'm not thrilled with it. The science wasn't well explained at all and the relationships between the scientists and personal characters wasn't flushed out. I'm terribly disappointed in this book.


message 23: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 04, 2014 02:46PM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Jennifer. I was going to hold fire with this until I'd read others comments. Based on what you say I think I'll give it a miss. I wasn't that interested in the subject matter and your comments have helped me to conclude that there's many other books I'd prioritise over "Tuxedo Park". Thanks again.


message 24: by Val (last edited Jun 04, 2014 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Val Thanks from me too Jennifer.
I might pick this book up again some time, but it does not have a high priority so I appreciate hearing from someone who did read all of it and was interested in both the scientific and personal aspects.


Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to read it. There's better books out there about the up and coming science in the lead up to WWII.

I makes me wonder about another book by the same author The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. Has anyone read that one?


message 26: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments Jennifer W wrote: "I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to read it. There's better books out there about the up and coming science in the lead up to WWII.

I makes me wonder about another book by the same author [b..."


I do have it. Not sure if I have even started it yet. I can take a look at it tomorrow.


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