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109 East Palace
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About the Author

Jennet Conant's profiles have appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times. She was given unrestricted access to Loomis' and Conant's papers, as well as to previously unpublished letters and documents, and she interviewed Loomis' many family members, friends, and colleagues. The granddaughter and grand niece of two of the scientists from the Tuxedo Park community, she is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Columbia University's School of Journalism. She lives in New York City and Sag Harbor with her husband, "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft, and their son.

Reviews

Conant, author of the bestselling Tuxedo Park, offers a human look at the brilliant physicists who for more than two years, along with their families, lived, laughed, despaired and rejoiced in a secret, sequestered, for some claustrophobic city in the New Mexico desert. Despite its grand name, 109 East Palace was the nondescript office in Santa Fe that served as a gateway to the Los Alamos complex. The narrative is framed by the perspective of Dorothy McKibben, who, in running that office, issuing security passes and coordinating logistics, was, says Conant, the "gatekeeper" to the hidden world of Los Alamos. Conant focuses on the day-to-day experience of the scientists, technicians and families stationed at Los Alamos, fleshing out their history in unexpected ways. While her protagonists are brilliant men and women, they're also vibrant characters who chafe at authority, fall in love, argue over housing and drink to excess. Less about the science of building the bomb, the book highlights the creation of a unique place and time in which that bomb could be built, and Conant (the granddaughter of a Manhattan Project administrator) brings to life the colorful, eccentric town of thousands that sprang up on a New Mexico mesa and achieved the unthinkable. Agent, Christine Dahl. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"The Manhattan Project was a chapter of history rich in the drama of human strengths and frailties, as Jennet Conant chronicles in her illuminating 109 East Palace.... Yet, for all the doubts and hardships, the scientists and workers at Los Alamos were part of something extraordinary.... Thanks to Conant's vivid book, we understand why."
-- BusinessWeek
"A haunting, beautifully realized and highly entertaining story.... A stunning accomplishment."
-- Edmonton Journal
"Terrifically engaging reading.... A story that, especially in times of uncertain security, we should read and heed."
-- San Jose Mercury News
"A unique and interesting portrait of the development of the atomic bomb and the brilliant man who oversaw the process.... Conant gives the reader one story after another, revealing the humanity of these people within the framework of the project that ushered the world into the Atomic Age.... Highly readable."
-- San Antonio Express-News
"Bears the weight of inexorable drama.... Excels in showing how bedeviled the brilliant, oddly spineless but extraordinarily powerful Oppenheimer was."
-- St. Petersburg Times
"A spellbinding account of a venture that often teetered on the brink while the future of the world lay at stake.... Vividly told, the interplay of personalities that would ultimately transform the world."
-- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"More than any other account of Los Alamos that I've read, Conant's narrative evokes the texture of life there.... A well-told narrative of daily life in a top-secret operation."
-- Newsday
"An engaging portrait of life on the remote mesa that served as backdrop for the world's most audacious scientific enterprise.... Conant packs her book with colorful, little-known details that bring the quotidian side of the bomb-building effort to life."
-- Baltimore Sun

Because the popular image of Robert Oppenheimer (1904-67), a.k.a. the father of the atomic bomb, is tainted with controversy, his charisma and administrative genius are often downplayed. This book, while acknowledging his faults, pays tribute to those virtues. Nowhere could his skills as a physicist have been better tested than at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), where Oppenheimer fashioned a productive coexistence between security-minded military brass and a group of eclectic, largely liberal academic scientists. Conant (Tuxedo Park), the granddaughter of Manhattan Project key player James Conant, writes of the pressures of isolation, clashing cultures, and oversized egos amid the United States's urgency to develop the bomb before Germany. Her storytelling technique-relaying the facts through the eyes of Oppenheimer's secretary, Dorothy McKibben, is very effective. The book is one of several published about this controversial figure in the last two years. Why this resurgence in interest about Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project? It is fair to speculate, as the author suggests in her preface, that parallels exist between past and present political climates. Suitable for academic or public libraries.-Gregg Sapp, SUNY at Albany Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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