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Review: The Girls of Atomic City

May 28, 2013

The Girls of Atomic City

What would you do if someone approached you and told you they needed your help with the war effort and then went on to explain that they couldn’t tell you what you’d be doing or where you’d be doing it?   Thousands of women were approached in just that way during World War II and, amazingly, many of them accepted, boarding trains without knowing their final destination and leaving their homes with nothing but faith in the government.

These women came from near and far and from all walks of life and converged on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a town that seemed to spring up overnight.  They were each assigned a job and only told what they needed to know to perform it.  They were forbidden to talk about what they were doing and were even encouraged to report others who did.  These women worked hard and mostly without complaint because they were convinced what they were doing was going to make a difference and help end the war.

In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan highlights some of these women and shares what it was like for them before, during, and after their work in Oak Ridge and, for the most part, I found this book fascinating.  As she tells the story of these women (and some men), Kiernan also includes some scientific details about the project and, I have to admit, much of that was over my head.  Luckily, those details only make up a small portion of the book so they didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

What I loved about this book was that it put a face on these workers and told the human side of the story of the huge undertaking known as The Manhattan Project.  I found the women to be intriguing and admired their bravery and positive attitudes.  They didn’t always work or live under great conditions but they generally made the best of it.  In many ways they were trailblazers!  I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful narrative non-fiction book!

It’s obvious this book is well researched – Kiernan includes a list of the Principal Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book but, after the first few chapters, I didn’t need to refer to it much.   She also includes Notes in the back – I only skimmed these but loved the notes about the women she met during her research.  If you enjoy stories about ordinary people in history you won’t want to miss The Girls of Atomic City!  Watch for a giveaway coming soon!

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2013 6:01 am

    I really enjoyed this one as well!

  2. May 28, 2013 6:44 am

    I think this is a fascinating story, and a part of history that would have probably been forgotten had she not written this book.

  3. May 28, 2013 6:46 am

    This sounds like one I’d like to read!

  4. therelentlessreader permalink
    May 28, 2013 7:30 am

    I was fascinated by this book as well 🙂

  5. May 28, 2013 9:54 am

    I have this book, and you’ve given me a great reason to get started with it. It sounds like there is much to be learned. Very engaging review today!

  6. May 28, 2013 10:15 am

    This one sounds fascinating and just the type of book I like reading. Thanks for the review. I may not have heard of it otherwise.

  7. Patty permalink
    May 28, 2013 10:22 am

    Sounds fascinating…without you reading it I would not have even known about it!

  8. May 28, 2013 11:00 am

    I recently read a little bit about the women working at Bletchley Park, which sounds a little like the British equivalent (they were working on different projects, of course) and it was fascinating. I can get so wrapped up in anything dealing with WWII — is this because it seems to close in terms of history, and yet, such a different world? Thank you for reviewing this, as I think I need to check into it as soon as I can.

  9. May 28, 2013 11:22 am

    I soooo want to read this one. It’s not often that I salivate over non-fiction, but this just sounds too interesting to pass up.

  10. May 28, 2013 12:22 pm

    I really, really want to read this one. I’m overloaded with books right now and it will take me a few months to get to it but I’m not going to forget about it!

  11. bookingmama permalink
    May 28, 2013 1:12 pm

    Sounds fascinating. I had no idea that women even participated in this!

  12. May 28, 2013 2:01 pm

    I bought this book when I saw the review on ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ a few months ago. I’m really not copying every thing you read–LOL. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  13. May 28, 2013 2:54 pm

    This book sounds like something I would love!

  14. May 28, 2013 5:30 pm

    I definitely want to read this!

  15. May 28, 2013 5:33 pm

    Excellent review! This sounds very good to me.

  16. May 28, 2013 7:08 pm

    Haven’t heard of this one yet, but it sounds like a fascinating read.

  17. May 28, 2013 7:11 pm

    This book sounds fantastic! I am going to have to look it up.

  18. May 28, 2013 7:25 pm

    The story sounds intriguing.

  19. May 28, 2013 7:29 pm

    I’m game. I want to read this. I haven’t read as much nonfiction this year as I usually do.

  20. May 28, 2013 8:38 pm

    You know I want to read this one. It sounds fascinating and I like how it personalizes the story and lets you get to know the women.

  21. May 28, 2013 9:38 pm

    This sounds fascinating. I remember watching the film The Manhattan Project ages ago, I don’t know if it had anything to do with the real thing though.

  22. lab1990 permalink
    May 28, 2013 11:37 pm

    Oh, sounds quite intriguing. I’d never heard about this before, I don’t believe. I’m glad the scientific aspects weren’t too much.

    Lauren from

  23. May 29, 2013 7:52 am

    I’ve seen good reviews on this one! Glad you liked it.

  24. May 29, 2013 12:57 pm

    This sounds amazing! I’m going to have to add this to the TBR stat.

  25. May 29, 2013 4:51 pm

    You talked me into it. Thank you!

  26. May 30, 2013 2:54 pm

    I always enjoy well-written non-fiction books that are inspiring.

  27. May 30, 2013 10:08 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting read to me. I love stories about strong women who’s stories have somehow gone unwritten for so long.

  28. May 31, 2013 2:44 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad you featured a history book review!!! On the list it goes…this one I need to read.

  29. May 31, 2013 10:29 pm

    Very interesting. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been as brave!

  30. swright9 permalink
    June 2, 2013 4:54 pm

    I’ve been interested in this book! & it’s been getting good reviews. Sounds quite fascinating

  31. June 4, 2013 3:07 pm

    I enjoy these kinds of books because they are about people and hidden history. Who would have ever known without this book. Thanks Kathy 🙂

  32. June 9, 2013 6:20 pm

    This sounds so amazing! I would like to know why this hasn’t been explored on television history channels!!!!???

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