Book Review: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (Three Stars)

“The most ambitious war project in military history rested squarely on the shoulders of tens of thousands of ordinary people, many of them young women.”

Excellent history of a slice of the effort required to produce atomic bombs. Of necessity, she spreads her net far beyond Oak Ridge, TN, to include women who made significant contributions to the science and industry which produced the first nuclear weapons. For better or worse, they changed the world forever.

“There is no such place as Oak Ridge, Tennessee.”

Sadly many, especially Lise Meitner, never got the recognition they deserved. Most didn’t get equal pay or living conditions because for their gender or race. But they all contributed to a massive project (about which they knew nothing) in the hope they were shortening World War Two.

“Elizabeth Edwards, Oak Ridge’s librarian, … looked over the spines and stopped at the volume containing the letter U. As she picked up the book, it fell open as if on command, the spine already worn and bent and broken from more than a year of being opened to the same page over and over by chemistry-savvy people trying to make sense of what they thought might possibly be going on.”

Kierman refrains from using the word uranium, substituting the then-current code word Tubealloy.

“For the last year [1944], roughly 22,000 people had been working at Y-12 day in and day out, 24 hours a day, as 1,152 calutrons managed to enrich 50 kilograms, or just over 100 pounds, of enriched Tubealloy.” (Uranium-235)

My wife’s great aunt was one of them. She never told us what she did, but her experiences parallels those reported here.

Q: What are they making in those plants?
A: About 80 cents an hour.

Q: What do you do out there?
A: As little as possible.

Q: How many people are working in Oak Ridge?
A: About half of them.

“Bigger! More! Now!” (MajGen. Leslie Groves, USA)

Book Review: The Holy Thief by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Holy Thief: Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #19 by Ellis Peters

(Four Stars)

“Cadfael shook himself free of vain wondering about souls that passed as strangers, and sighed, and went back into the church to say a brief word into Saint Winifred’s ear before going to his work in the garden.”

Classic Cadfael mystery: murder, misdirection, pride and humility, and of course young lovers. This story builds on several previous, especially The Potter’s Field.

“Many eyes followed the turning of the key, and the installation of the coffer on the altar, where awe of heaven would keep it from violation.”

In some ways a more religious story than many other chronicles, Pargeter explores vows, relics, penance, and various medieval religious practices: some Continue reading

Book Review: Hearts of Fire, edited by Voice of the Martyrs Four Stars


Book Review: Hearts of Fire: eight women in the underground church and their stories of costly faith, edited by Voice of the Martyrs

Four Stars

Incredible stories of women over the last seventy years who faced persecution and death because of their Christian faith. Modern American readers will shrink back from the reality that such treatment is meted to women in this world today. It is.

Most of those featured did not seek attention. They were going about their lives as children or mothers with little concept of the world beyond their village. The world came to them, and it was angry.

Sobering. It’s happening today. In this world. In this country. (See Hiding in the Light)