Wednesday, 28 May 2014
The Wives of Los Alamos by Tara Shea Nesbit
Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago--and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with P.O. box addresses in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn't exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together--adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. And while the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn't say out loud, the letters they couldn't send home, the freedom they didn't have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind."The Wives of Los Alamos" is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history. It's a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.
This is the first book I have read which has been written in first person plural. I felt it gave more punch and gravity to the story,it had an eerie feel about it.
I had never heard of Los Alamos before reading this book so I guess some parts of my education were somewhat lacking. As soon as I read the blurb about the book I knew it was one I wanted to read.
These women had their lives turned upside down by the fact that their husbands were scientists. Everything was surrounded in secrecy, they could tell no one where they were moving to or why. They left behind, mothers,sisters brothers and friends not knowing when they would ever see them again. Six hundred and twenty families made a population of thousands. All living in a makeshift town in the desert of New Mexico by order of the American government.
The women never knew what their husbands were working on as they left for the laboratory everyday. This caused anguish as husbands were keeping secrets from their wives.
The town became everyday life for these families. They gave birth to babies,raised their children all without the help from extended family. The women learnt how to play the system to get what they needed and some even missed the town when it was time to leave.
I enjoyed this story and learning about Los Alamos and I now want to read more on the subject.
How awful it must have been for these women to discover their husbands had been inventing the atomic bomb that was responsible for killing so many people. The book goes on to tell us how it affected their children long after the end of the war which was interesting.
Although I thought the first person plural gave the story authenticity it also prevented me from familiarising myself with the characters and at the end of the book I couldn't remember any of their names. I would have liked to have heard more of their individual stories and also more about the Spanish women who came and cleaned their houses and looked after the children.
This however does not take away much from what was a very interesting read.