2014: 36. The Girls of Atomic City

"That morning, the excitement coursing through the complex known as the Castle was infectious."

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of The Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan

I wish I could say that my reason for not blogging for a week was that I was so busy and had no time - and I was so busy, and didn't have much time, but the truth is, I have been in a major league book slump.  Reading magazines instead of books, picking up books and then putting them down again - all the classic signs of book slumpery.  Normally I break a slump by going to get some sort of super trashy super fun thing to read, but this time I went for the slogging approach - by forcing myself to finish a book that's been kicking around forever.

I first tried to read this one when I took it out of the library last year - but it was due back, and it hadn't grabbed me enough to renew it, so back it went.  And then I was stuck at the Fort Lauderdale airport with nothing to read (having finished Going Clear), and the pickings were slim.  So slim that that this was about it (except for the book that my mom bought).  So I decided to give it another try.  And I picked it up, and read a bit, and then put it down, and then finally, this week I gritted through.

Which makes it sound like a terrible book - and it's not, not at all.  It's just not exactly what it says it is, and not as good as it could be.  Basically, it's the story of Oak Ridge Tennesee (discursive question - does anyone else have a hard time spelling that state?), a top secret city that was invented during the Second World War to process uranium, in order to build the bomb.  Kiernan's theory is that women were the drivers of the process and the secret heroines behind the bomb.  And maybe they were - but the way she writes, it doesn't seem like that was the case.  Rather it reads like a super interesting history of a fascinating place - a secret city where no one knew what they were doing or could talk about any single aspect of their jobs - and a place that had a lot of pros and cons (people from all over the country mixing! scientific advancement! rampant segregation!).  And the stuff about women seems shoehorned in - you get the sense that yes, like all war industries, lots of women were working there - but lots of men were too.  So the fact that she wrote about women was interesting, but also seemed shoehorned in.  Oak Ridge itself was interesting enough without working so hard to convince me that "Rosie did more than drive rivets."  And, while I'm getting going, the prose isn't great - the story is often disjointed, and as such, it's pretty easy to put down and walk away from (as I did, at least twice before I knocked this out).  I don't know if there is another book about Oak Ridge to read - its's totally interesting to learn about the place, so read it with that in mind, not some feminist victory.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017