The Atomic City Girls

The Atomic City Girls

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist....

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Title:The Atomic City Girls
Author:Janet Beard
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Atomic City Girls Reviews

  • Katelyn

    A neat, fictional peak into the lives of some of the women and men who worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII, helping create an atomic bomb (most unknowingly). June is a local girl working her first job monitoring and turning dials all day. Joe is an African American man living in a shack away from his family and working on a construction crew to send money home. Joe's friend Ralph is fighting for racial justice and better working and living conditions. Sam is a scientist and former profess

    A neat, fictional peak into the lives of some of the women and men who worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII, helping create an atomic bomb (most unknowingly). June is a local girl working her first job monitoring and turning dials all day. Joe is an African American man living in a shack away from his family and working on a construction crew to send money home. Joe's friend Ralph is fighting for racial justice and better working and living conditions. Sam is a scientist and former professor who is figuring out how to make the plant work. And June's roommate Cici is methodically looking for a rich husband while hiding her roots as a sharecropper's daughter.

    Oak Ridge quickly becomes a city in its own right. People live, work, eat and get their entertainment in Oak Ridge. I found it fascinating to think of how these people lived and I quickly gobbled up this book. An accessible, fictional account of the "Atomic City".

  • Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up.

    The title of this novel is a misnomer in some ways. It’s not just about the the women who worked for the Manhattan Project, called for purposes of security Clinton Engineering Works, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1940’s. It was about men as well, about what the everyday life was like at this place where they live and work on something secretive , a question of national security, they are told. Of course, there are people here who know exactly what is happening here and they

    3.5 stars rounded up.

    The title of this novel is a misnomer in some ways. It’s not just about the the women who worked for the Manhattan Project, called for purposes of security Clinton Engineering Works, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1940’s. It was about men as well, about what the everyday life was like at this place where they live and work on something secretive , a question of national security, they are told. Of course, there are people here who know exactly what is happening here and they are instructed that they must not discuss their work with anyone, never say the word “bomb”, but of course, they do.

    The book follows in alternating chapters four people who are employed here and their individual stories as well as how their lives intersect to form the narrative of the story. In 1944, eighteen year old June, brought up on a farm not far from Oak Ridge takes a job there. She is naive and unaware of what her job her job watching dials and adjusting meters really is all about. That is until she begins a relationship with Sam Cantor, a physicist, a Jew, whose relatives in Germany have been impacted by the war in unimaginable ways. Sam was the most interesting character for me, fighting his personal demons and ambivalence over his work, providing the thought provoking questions about the merits of the atom bomb. Joe, a black laborer takes a job here, leaving his wife and three children behind in order to support them. His story and that of the younger Ralph, illustrate the inequities, the racism that black people were subjected to here as well as in the larger society. Cici, June’s roommate is a shallow, self centered girl whose main reason for being there is to look for a man with money, tries to reinvent herself from the sharecropper’s daughter she grew up as. Way too much time was spent on Cici’s dating life . How these four people connect is how we learn about the day to day life in Oak Ridge.

    This has a realistic feel to it with black and white photographs interspersed throughout. I was disappointed that the advance copy I read did not include the listed “P.S. Insights, Interviews & More “ which I had hoped would shed some light on the research process. I assume the final published version of the book will include these. A realistic feel, but I want to know more about how real the depiction is so I’m going to read the non fiction book, with a strikingly almost identical title The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. By the way , the Epilogue is fantastic.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.

  • Holly (2 Kids and Tired)

    I worked at a National Laboratory for 15 years. My father worked there for 32. We were in California, but I had contacts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I am familiar with security clearances and secrecy. I am aware of much of the history of the Labs and which ones did what work.

    National laboratories are like their own little cities and I loved this inside look at the beginnings of Oak Ridge. The girls who were hired to operate machines, but who had no idea why or what those machines did. The

    I worked at a National Laboratory for 15 years. My father worked there for 32. We were in California, but I had contacts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I am familiar with security clearances and secrecy. I am aware of much of the history of the Labs and which ones did what work.

    National laboratories are like their own little cities and I loved this inside look at the beginnings of Oak Ridge. The girls who were hired to operate machines, but who had no idea why or what those machines did. The scientists working so hard to create something that was destructive yet deemed necessary. The workers who built and cleaned and were simply grateful for employment, but who chafed at mistreatment, simply because of their skin color.

    Stories about strong women are my favorites and The Atomic City Girls did not disappoint. June is fantastic: young and a bit naive, but strong when she needs to be. As she learned more about what Oak Ridge was really doing, those parts became my favorites. Seeing her learn and understand the science and the purpose of the machine in regards to uranium, was so refreshing. I enjoyed seeing names dropped that I am familiar with: Lawrence and Teller and Oppenheimer.

    The novel revolves around several people whose lives all end up intertwined. June needs a job and enjoys the social life that comes with it; Sam is a scientist who wants to help end the war. Joe just wants to provide for his family and avoid drawing undue attention to himself.

    One of the things I appreciated most about this story is the conflict. Some who helped create the atomic bomb, were happy to see it used. Others understood that many innocents would die and lives destroyed because of it. Not everything is black and white, especially during war.

    An enthralling story with historical photos, an epilogue and author's note.

  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    To be reviewed over at Fresh Fiction!

  • Linda Zagon

    imageWOW! Janet Beard, Author of “The Atomic City Girls” manages to write an intriguing and captivating novel. The Genres for this novel and Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for this story is the 1940’s. The story revolves around the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A town is set up with segregated homes, and amenities for the residents working in Oak Ridge. Everything is secretive, and the workers sign confidentiality agreements. Many of the workers are not aware that they

    imageWOW! Janet Beard, Author of “The Atomic City Girls” manages to write an intriguing and captivating novel. The Genres for this novel and Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for this story is the 1940’s. The story revolves around the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A town is set up with segregated homes, and amenities for the residents working in Oak Ridge. Everything is secretive, and the workers sign confidentiality agreements. Many of the workers are not aware that they are working together to create an atomic bomb. Young women monitor dials on a machine and have no idea why.

    The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. Most of the workers come here to make money. My favorite character is June Walker, an 18-year-old working her first job. She works hard and seems to be very laid back and quiet and I love that she shows growth in her character. She rooms with a manipulative roommate, Cici, who enjoys going to dances . June meets Sam Cantor, a Jewish top scientist who knows exactly what is going on with the atom bomb. Many members of Sam’s family were killed in Germany. Other scientists at the top are aware and have different feelings about making this bomb, and yet they can’t discuss it.

    I appreciate that the author weaves several stories within the novel, and several of the characters become involved in different ways. This is a time period in history that is hugely ignored and I was amazed to see what is happening, and how the “Atomic Age” started. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of Historical Fiction. I received an Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.

  • Deb

    Since historical fiction, particularly when it is set in the World War II era, is a favorite of mine I was excited to sign up this book tour. I like historical fiction that gives me a unique perspective of the war and I found the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small town built by the government in order to do research and produce materials and components in order to beat Germany in building an atomic weapon, fascinating. Los Alamos, New Mexico is most well known for The Manhatten Project and

    Since historical fiction, particularly when it is set in the World War II era, is a favorite of mine I was excited to sign up this book tour. I like historical fiction that gives me a unique perspective of the war and I found the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small town built by the government in order to do research and produce materials and components in order to beat Germany in building an atomic weapon, fascinating. Los Alamos, New Mexico is most well known for The Manhatten Project and I confess to being unaware of the happenings in Oak Ridge. Equally unaware are the main character of the book, June Walker, and the other hundreds of young women like her who have come to Oak Ridge for the high-paying jobs operating machines that they don't know anything about. They sit for hours every day or night (depending on their shifts) in a booth while watching and monitoring the dials of a machine, but not being able to ask questions about their work or tell anyone what they are doing.

    In addition to June, the story unfolds from the perspective of three other characters, June's roommate Cici--another machine operator like June, African-American, Joe Brewer--who leaves his wife and young children to do construction work in Oak Ridge, along with his friend, the troubled Ralph, and finally Sam Cantor--a Jewish scientist who is the only one of the four characters who knows what the purpose of Oak Ridge really is. June becomes involved with Sam and gradually learns what is happening. June is a young eighteen, naive but eager to learn and very likable. Joe is another character I rooted for--wincing every time the bigotry and discrimination of the times reared its ugly head in the story. Sam is complicated--I wanted to like him and at times I did, and then there is Cici, solely out for herself in every thought and action.

    I was immediately caught up in the story of The Atomic City Girls and the book's close to 400 pages flew by. It is clear that Janet Beard did her research for the book and writes in a way that makes dusty, bustling Oak Ridge and the characters living there come to life. I found myself invested in these characters, wanting to know what would happen to them, especially June and Joe. I did want a bit more from the ending because after a lot of detail and build up, things actually wrap up rather quickly--although there is an epilogue that talks about what happens with the four main characters that I appreciated. The Atomic City Girls illuminated a piece of American history that I wasn't aware of and it had me googling Oak Ridge and its role in The Manhattan Project for more information. I was sorry to have the story end and recommend it especially for fans of World War II historical fiction.

    You can see my review plus a recipe inspired by the book on my blog post here:

    Note: A review copy of "The Atomic City Girls" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

  • Kerith

    Good traveling reading on an interesting and difficult subject but overall I was disappointed. The author focused on too many characters so that none of them was really fleshed out. The title referred to the girls in the story, but two of the points of view were men. They didn't live for me, they were cardboard. Some big occurrences happened offstage, like what happened with Ralph. It just didn't hang together.

    I'd have appreciated more of the historical side, much more discussion of the ethics

    Good traveling reading on an interesting and difficult subject but overall I was disappointed. The author focused on too many characters so that none of them was really fleshed out. The title referred to the girls in the story, but two of the points of view were men. They didn't live for me, they were cardboard. Some big occurrences happened offstage, like what happened with Ralph. It just didn't hang together.

    I'd have appreciated more of the historical side, much more discussion of the ethics of what was going on at Oak Ridge, rather than the romantic stuff. The only relationship that rang true was that of Joe and Moriah.

    I received my copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

  • Onceinabluemoon

    I am an avid library abuser, last night I was number one for nine new releases, never one who wants to hold up the queue I can't wait to dive into the new stuff, loving historical fiction I grabbed this audio book first, after all I was number 29 in line for the kindle version, why wait! Bright and early I had my ears on and out to the garden I went... hmmm, it wasn't grabbing me, oh give it time, the meat of the story is just around the corner... I looked to see I was at 19% and still I was wai

    I am an avid library abuser, last night I was number one for nine new releases, never one who wants to hold up the queue I can't wait to dive into the new stuff, loving historical fiction I grabbed this audio book first, after all I was number 29 in line for the kindle version, why wait! Bright and early I had my ears on and out to the garden I went... hmmm, it wasn't grabbing me, oh give it time, the meat of the story is just around the corner... I looked to see I was at 19% and still I was waiting. At 60% I returned the audio and washed my hands of it. It felt like nothing but chic lit, I wanted substance, not straw sucking women seeking spouses, I wanted to LEARN. Just not for me, I love non fiction and historical fiction done well, but this was just pure fluff and I found myself angry to be wasting my time on something I didn't like when I have eight more new releases in the wings, something is bound to resonate more to my liking!

  • The Library Lady

    Clearly neither the author nor her editors have read

    , a non-fiction version of the story here that reads like a novel itself.

    If they had, they wouldn't have published this cardboard character filled version of history.

    And if you've already spent time reading this, (and if you haven't, don't waste your time on it), read that one. The true women (and men) of Oak Ridge have an astonishing story to tell, and the aut

    Clearly neither the author nor her editors have read

    , a non-fiction version of the story here that reads like a novel itself.

    If they had, they wouldn't have published this cardboard character filled version of history.

    And if you've already spent time reading this, (and if you haven't, don't waste your time on it), read that one. The true women (and men) of Oak Ridge have an astonishing story to tell, and the author of that book told it beautifully.

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