The Atomic City Girls – by Janet Beard


The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard 

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (Feb. 6 2018)

ISBN-13: 978-0062666710

Synopsis: In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people 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. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

* * *


Romance in a time of war and uncertainty- feels like something else you have read? Well, THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS is nothing like you have read. This book tells the story of the everyday people, the women, who helped and contributed to the Manhattan project and the winning of the second world war.

I loved the inclusion of minority groups in this story (a Jewish physicist named Same Cantor and an African-American construction worked named Joe Brewer) and I felt that the story did a great job of capturing America during the war, as well as the way war efforts were treated. June Walker, the main character who arrives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the start of the book with no idea what her work is for; she just knows she is there to help the war effort.

Janet Beard’s writing is nice and flows together. The characters were interesting and kept the story going. I enjoyed this book, but I feel that it will always be compared to some really amazing WWII books that have emerged in recent – and even past – years, and in this comparison, this book does not measure up. However, I really loved that it offered a different perspective than those other recent best sellers (like, The Nightingale, Lilac Girls, The Alice Network) showing the war in America versus Europe. And like other recent bestsellers, The Atomic City Girls follows suit in focusing on the women and their contribution to the war effort and the allies success. Overall, this is a really great historical fiction read!

Rating: 8/10

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Harper Collins Canada*

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