The Girls of Atomic City (CBR8 #11)

I loved the topic of this book, I wasn’t so much in love with its execution. I listened to this one via audiobook, as has become a new obsession of mine, and I’ve noticed that listening to books as opposed to reading them can really highlight poor editorial choices. There were many cases in the course of reading this book where we were revisiting information for the third or fourth time and it bothered me. Not enough to stop listening to this book, but enough to keep me from bumping this book’s rating up from three stars to four.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II is both exactly what its title says it is, and a little bit more. Author Denise Kiernan runs two narratives simultaneously: the first about the aforementioned women who came to the mysterious Clinton Engineering Works without any idea of what exactly they were working towards, except something that would help end the Second World War quickly, and the second the history of the scientific discoveries which would eventually lead to the development of the world’s first atomic weapon. Each side of the story has its ups and downs, but Kiernan does a good job of conveying the experience of a variety of women (and men) had at CEW both during the war and in its aftermath.

I’ve seen this one compared to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and I think that a fair comparison. Each book tackles a portion of science which is likely unfamiliar to the general reader (how many of us really understand what goes into nuclear energy?) and tells us the tale of the science and the people who were directly linked to it. However, each suffers occasionally from an onslaught of information or a story that seemingly wanders away from the main narrative, but are both well researched, engaging reads.

While working on this review I came across the website for the book and it is full of the stuff I missed not having a hard copy in front of me (I love pictures!) and that has generally improved my opinion, so perhaps this one is best in its paper form.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.