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In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women 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. In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women 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.


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In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women 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. In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women 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.

30 review for The Atomic City Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up. The title of this novel is a misnomer in some ways. It’s not just about the the women who worked for the Manhattan Project, called for purposes of security Clinton Engineering Works, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1940’s. It was about men as well, about what the everyday life was like at this place where they live and work on something secretive , a question of national security, they are told. Of course, there are people here who know exactly what is happening here and they 3.5 stars rounded up. The title of this novel is a misnomer in some ways. It’s not just about the the women who worked for the Manhattan Project, called for purposes of security Clinton Engineering Works, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the 1940’s. It was about men as well, about what the everyday life was like at this place where they live and work on something secretive , a question of national security, they are told. Of course, there are people here who know exactly what is happening here and they are instructed that they must not discuss their work with anyone, never say the word “bomb”, but of course, they do. The book follows in alternating chapters four people who are employed here and their individual stories as well as how their lives intersect to form the narrative of the story. In 1944, eighteen year old June, brought up on a farm not far from Oak Ridge takes a job there. She is naive and unaware of what her job her job watching dials and adjusting meters really is all about. That is until she begins a relationship with Sam Cantor, a physicist, a Jew, whose relatives in Germany have been impacted by the war in unimaginable ways. Sam was the most interesting character for me, fighting his personal demons and ambivalence over his work, providing the thought provoking questions about the merits of the atom bomb. Joe, a black laborer takes a job here, leaving his wife and three children behind in order to support them. His story and that of the younger Ralph, illustrate the inequities, the racism that black people were subjected to here as well as in the larger society. Cici, June’s roommate is a shallow, self centered girl whose main reason for being there is to look for a man with money, tries to reinvent herself from the sharecropper’s daughter she grew up as. Way too much time was spent on Cici’s dating life . How these four people connect is how we learn about the day to day life in Oak Ridge. This has a realistic feel to it with black and white photographs interspersed throughout. I was disappointed that the advance copy I read did not include the listed “P.S. Insights, Interviews & More “ which I had hoped would shed some light on the research process. I assume the final published version of the book will include these. A realistic feel, but I want to know more about how real the depiction is so I’m going to read the non fiction book, with a strikingly almost identical title The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. By the way , the Epilogue is fantastic. I received an advanced copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    Clearly neither the author nor her editors have read The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, a non-fiction version of the story here that reads like a novel itself. If they had, they wouldn't have published this cardboard character filled version of history. And if you've already spent time reading this, (and if you haven't, don't waste your time on it), read that one. The true women (and men) of Oak Ridge have an astonishing story to tell, and the aut Clearly neither the author nor her editors have read The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, a non-fiction version of the story here that reads like a novel itself. If they had, they wouldn't have published this cardboard character filled version of history. And if you've already spent time reading this, (and if you haven't, don't waste your time on it), read that one. The true women (and men) of Oak Ridge have an astonishing story to tell, and the author of that book told it beautifully.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Hopkins

    Okay. I found what was going on in this book so super interesting from a historical perspective? But from a reader's perspective I was like...how did this get past an agent let alone probably multiple editors and people with brains who read things? It is SO. UNBEARABLY. DULL. It's written about as interestingly as a cookbook from the 40s and since it's ABOUT the 40s I was like "is this intentional?" lol. It reads like the most basic book ever. There's weirdly very little dialogue or even any int Okay. I found what was going on in this book so super interesting from a historical perspective? But from a reader's perspective I was like...how did this get past an agent let alone probably multiple editors and people with brains who read things? It is SO. UNBEARABLY. DULL. It's written about as interestingly as a cookbook from the 40s and since it's ABOUT the 40s I was like "is this intentional?" lol. It reads like the most basic book ever. There's weirdly very little dialogue or even any interesting moments between characters, all of whom are terribly bland and one-note. There's an 18-year-old fresh-faced "country girl" who is nothing more than that, there's a hilariously stereotypical Brooklyn Jew scientist who is nothing more than that, there's a hard-working family man who left farm life for the first time to come to work at Oak Ridge, the atomic city outside of Knoxville (he's also nothing more than that), and there's a gold-digging country bumpkin who pretends she's fancy because she wants to marry a rich man who is...nothing more than that. So the weak plot is that June moves to Oak Ridge to be one of the "innocent and ignorant" (as she's described multiple times) girls manning the calutrons at this casual uranium plant. She eventually meets one of the scientists, a "dirty Jew" (according to her roommate because #The1940s) scientist from Brooklyn who's 30 and an alcoholic. Sam, the dirty Jew scientist, basically drunkenly assaults June one night and also yells out classified information about how they're building an atomic bomb, and June the dumbass is like "wow...I think I love him!" LITERALLY WHAT. So then they start dating and he's an asshole to her the whole time because he's just so SENSITIVE about this bomb being used to kill tons of people, and she's like nbd, this is normal. The side plot is that her bitch roommate Cici is trash but wants to marry rich so she pretends she's not trash even though everyone else who's not trash knows she's trash, and she ends up being a bitch in the end as well but DON'T WORRY in the epilogue we find out that her marriage ends up being unhappy!!!!! and then the other side plot is JOE the "negro" (again with the 1940s terms) who came up from Alabama to make some money while his family stays at home, though he's kind of pointless aside from one little piece of the "plot" that slightly connects him to June and Sam (I do like that he serves the purpose of informing us about segregated life in Oak Ridge, however). Anyway, something DRAMATIC finally happens with one chapter to go (SPOILER ALERT Cici tells the army that June said the word "bomb" and so the army fires her for clearly knowing every single secret about nuclear weapon production and then Sam's like "well I'm going back to NY, byeeee, have a nice life country farm trash"). That's...it? Like that's this entire book. Here's my impression of how the book is written: "June Walker is a country girl. One day, when she was 18, she got on a bus to Oak Ridge because she got a job at an exciting new place. It was run by the army, but she didn't know what was happening there! She wore her best dress, but she only owned five dresses. She's from the country! She got to Oak Ridge and moved into a dormitory where she met her roommate Cici, who seemed so cosmopolitan. She wore makeup and liked flirting with boys. June had a boyfriend once, her childhood sweetheart who asked her to marry him before he went to war, but she'd never flirt the way Cici did. She's from the country and Cici is from the big city of Nashville!" No joke. It has the literary value of stories I wrote for my teachers in fourth grade. IT'S SO BAD. JUST HOW. Kudos to the author for her Oak Ridge research and explanations because that's the only thing redeeming about this, but it's no great novel. It's touted as "the next Lilac Girls" but Lilac Girls is an actual novel with fleshed out characters and a plot and strong writing. This is more or less a history lesson about Oak Ridge with a poorly written and weak narrative thrown in to make learning history more fun. It's so bad, and there are zero redeeming or even likable characters, though shoutout to Joe for being a good guy from start to finish!!! He loves his family and working hard!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    After reading the nonfiction book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, I was eager to read more about Oak Ridge and the people who worked there. Unfortunately, not that many books have been written about the people however this historical fiction book looked promising. I'll admit I had some issues with the book, but overall I'm glad I read it. The author did a good job weaving historical facts into the story. Some of the details might not seem sign After reading the nonfiction book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, I was eager to read more about Oak Ridge and the people who worked there. Unfortunately, not that many books have been written about the people however this historical fiction book looked promising. I'll admit I had some issues with the book, but overall I'm glad I read it. The author did a good job weaving historical facts into the story. Some of the details might not seem significant such as all of the mud or the massive lines and shortage of food at the commissary but they did help contribute to painting the picture of what life was like at Oak Ridge. The character of Joe at times didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story but I'm glad he was included because it showed the vast differences in living and working conditions for white vs. black workers. Unfortunately the fictional story just was not very strong. While the book title implies the story is about women, in reality the story lines were split between two women and two men. Cici's story was definitely the weakest of the four and I feel like her sole purpose was just to create unnecessary drama. (view spoiler)[I actually had a really big problem with Sam telling June they were building an atomic bomb at Oak Ridge. I was willing to buy the fact he was drunk the first time, but him continuing to discuss it with her in great detail when he was sober just really rubbed me the wrong way. I realize that not everyone probably kept their mouths shut about the project and that some of the workers suspected some type of bomb was being made there. However, to have one of the scientist characters who would have been one of the very few who had knowledge of the project blab everything to his girlfriend felt like some cheap plot device. There are so few books written about Oak Ridge, do we really need a story about a worker's lack of integrity? I'll admit this isn't something that will probably annoy readers as much as it did me. (hide spoiler)] So yes, I did have some problems with the book but it is by no means the worst historical fiction book ever. It's just an average read, but that's disappointing because what the men and women accomplished at Oak Ridge is a significant and I wish this book would have been a better reflection of their interesting stories.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This book is a historical fiction book about how the atomic bombs, and the girls who worked on them. I have to say I loved the pictures that where in the book. I feel the characters could have more developed. (*)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Atmospheric, authentic, and immersive! The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating story that sweeps you away to Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the mid-1940s when WWII was raging on the battlefields of Europe, and back home the American government was funding a top-secret project that would triumphantly and tragically have a resounding effect on the entire world for years to come. The prose is captivating and vividly described. The four main characters June, Sam, Cici, and Joe are unique, hardworking, and Atmospheric, authentic, and immersive! The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating story that sweeps you away to Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the mid-1940s when WWII was raging on the battlefields of Europe, and back home the American government was funding a top-secret project that would triumphantly and tragically have a resounding effect on the entire world for years to come. The prose is captivating and vividly described. The four main characters June, Sam, Cici, and Joe are unique, hardworking, and patriotic. And the plot, interspersed with real-life photos, is a compelling story about life, love, friendship, self-discovery, segregation, survival, tragedy, war, romance, uranium enrichment, nuclear weapons, and morality. Overall, The Atomic City Girls is a well-written, exceptionally researched novel that does a remarkable job of highlighting Beard’s incredible knowledge into a period and historical event that is often forgotten or overlooked. Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All my reviews can be found on my blog at https://whatsbetterthanbooks.com

  7. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    For eighteen-year-old June Walker, the prospect of working at Oak Ridge is a chance to get away from home. She has no idea what she is actually doing at Oak Ridge other than she's helping the war effort. As she starts an affair with a Jewish physicist, Sam Carter, she starts to realize more and more what they are doing there. At the same time, her roommate Cici is trying her hardest to find a rich man and get away from her past life. African- American construction worker Joe Brewer has left his For eighteen-year-old June Walker, the prospect of working at Oak Ridge is a chance to get away from home. She has no idea what she is actually doing at Oak Ridge other than she's helping the war effort. As she starts an affair with a Jewish physicist, Sam Carter, she starts to realize more and more what they are doing there. At the same time, her roommate Cici is trying her hardest to find a rich man and get away from her past life. African- American construction worker Joe Brewer has left his family behind since the job at Oak Ridge pays well, but being away from his family is hard for him. All these people have their own dreams and goals, but life isn't always easy and things can change in a moment. READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sherri Thacker

    I really enjoyed this fictional book about how the atomic bomb was made and how secretive the whole thing was. The whole time I read it I felt like I was back in the 40’s and there are little black and white pictures throughout. Beautifully written and I really enjoyed the chapters as well. It’s not my normal genre of books but I’m so glad I read this one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Provin Martin

    This was a solid 3.5 for me. I found it hard to keep track of all the characters and their stories. It distracted me from the plot itself. That being said, this book is about SECRETS mostly. But the story gets lost between government secrets and character secrets. In between the secrets are several love stories. I do appreciate the authors epilogue where we find out how the rest of the characters lives turn out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Bookish

    I adore historical fiction and WWII is definitely my go-to time period when it comes to this genre. Reading the blurb, I had high hopes for Atomic City Girls, but rereading it now after finishing the book really brings into focus how much of a false impression of the book it gives. First and foremost, the romance storyline felt like it took up more of the novel than was justified. All of the major characters are working on developing a nuclear bomb. Some of them know what they’re working to devel I adore historical fiction and WWII is definitely my go-to time period when it comes to this genre. Reading the blurb, I had high hopes for Atomic City Girls, but rereading it now after finishing the book really brings into focus how much of a false impression of the book it gives. First and foremost, the romance storyline felt like it took up more of the novel than was justified. All of the major characters are working on developing a nuclear bomb. Some of them know what they’re working to develop and some of them do not. The political and moral implications of their work and the fact that some of them have been roped into working on it essentially blind felt like something that warranted more development and focus than an unhealthy romance that starts with a 30-year-old scientist taking home a drunk 18-year-old girl. (Yeah, that happens.) Don’t get me wrong; June’s relationship with Sam Cantor isn’t overly romanticized, and I did appreciate that the morally dodgy nature of their relationship wasn’t sugarcoated. I do have a few feelings about the fact that the only Jewish character in this WWII historical fiction novel is an alcoholic man who takes advantage of a younger girl, though. (I’m not saying that this was necessarily done with any intent, but I do wonder if it ever occurred to the author that, given the rampant antisemitism of the era, making the only Jewish character kind of an awful person might not be a value-free narrative choice.) The book was trying to do a lot; themes about the moral implications of their work (while underdeveloped, in my opinion) were present, and multiple POV characters allow us to explore the story from varying levels of privilege. (Race, gender, age, and level of education all come into play.) Most of the characters felt underdeveloped, however, and that really hindered the author’s ability to explore this in any real depth. Joe Brewer (the African American man mentioned in the blurb whose fate is going to be “intertwined with” June’s) in particular felt like a missed opportunity. First of all, his relevance to June’s storyline feels severely overstated in the blurb. But beyond that, feels very one-dimensional. It would have been interesting to have a bit more depth to a character who is treated like a second class citizen in a country he’s working to serve. The pacing also felt a tad slow to me, and the writing style was pretty simple. Not once while reading did any particular passage or quote jump out to me as memorable. Overall, I feel like I liked the idea of this novel a lot more than the novel itself. The subject matter was really ripe for exploring complex moral themes, but Beard uses cardboard cutout characters and the more interesting aspects of the plot are relegated to the background while Beard tells a story of a doomed romance and a rivalry between roommates. Atomic City Girls brings up a lot of interesting themes, but only ever superficially and fleetingly, leaving the reader thinking, “Okay, and???” You can read all of my reviews at my blog, Jenna Bookish! Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Great read. Really loved the epilogue detailing what happens to each of the main characters.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    This historical parts of the book were fascinating, but frankly I was not a big fan of the actual characters.. so I felt torn while reading it. A lot of research went into the book and that was the best part of it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Anze

    "What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here." 3.5 stars rounded up Eighteen-year-old June Walker begins working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a facility called Clinton Engineering Works (CEW). Told only that she is helping the war effort, June is tasked with watching and adjusting a machine as are many more young woman like her. In the evenings, the women and men of the facility socialize in the town and June meets Sam Cantor, one of the scientists behind the project. A "What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here." 3.5 stars rounded up Eighteen-year-old June Walker begins working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a facility called Clinton Engineering Works (CEW). Told only that she is helping the war effort, June is tasked with watching and adjusting a machine as are many more young woman like her. In the evenings, the women and men of the facility socialize in the town and June meets Sam Cantor, one of the scientists behind the project. As they get to know each other, June learns about the true nature of her job and its hardly a simple task. Having seen a mix of ratings for this book, I had a certain hesitation when I started reading myself. While this book was not exactly what I expected, I can honestly say I did enjoy reading it. When June arrives to Oak Ridge, its a fairly new town that does not officially exist. Housing the CEW facility, the only ones that live here are people that work here. June is given a fairly simple job of watching and adjusting a machine but told nothing else. She settles into her new life and one evening meets Sam Cantor. Since everything about Oak Ridge is cloaked in secrecy, having a distraction is more than welcome. But as her relationship with Sam advances, tensions build up. I really liked the atmosphere of the book and the range of characters. The title is somewhat misleading as ths narrative is told by female and male characters. The narrative itself, however, was well done and all those other perspectives really helped give a more complete picture. Beard paints a picture where the characters conflicted states of mind tied in perfectly with the current times. The rising of the tensions on a global scale mirrored the rising of tensions for the various personal relationships in the town and that was felt throughout the narrative. As its known now, the Clinton Engineering Works was the Manhattan Project which produced the Atomic Bomb. The machines that the young women at Oak Ridge operated were enriching Uranium that gave the bomb its potency but they did not know that. The Manhattan Project was a collaboration betweeen America, Britian and Canada. About 130,000 people were employed and $2 billion was spent overall. Oak Ridge was created with the sole purpose of making all the elements needed for the bomb but only the higher-ups and scientists knew this. The young women recruited were just told that there were helping in the war effort. I am aware that there is a non-fiction work regarding this subject matter and plan on reading that at a later date. One interesting fact I have learned since reading this book is that radium is created from the decay of the uranium atom (having read 'Radium Girls', this was of particular interest to me). Beard tied the background with the narrative in a smart way.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (needs a break from reviewing)

    20/4 - This was only so-so. I think that whoever included the uncaptioned photos made a mistake because in quite a few of them it was unclear what we were looking at (kind of like looking at a now deceased relative's old photos and trying to work out where they were taken and who the people in them are without the relative's input). Of the four main characters only one was sympathetic, but even then I didn't really enjoy reading his chapters because he was a black man working in a very white worl 20/4 - This was only so-so. I think that whoever included the uncaptioned photos made a mistake because in quite a few of them it was unclear what we were looking at (kind of like looking at a now deceased relative's old photos and trying to work out where they were taken and who the people in them are without the relative's input). Of the four main characters only one was sympathetic, but even then I didn't really enjoy reading his chapters because he was a black man working in a very white world and his story made me angry and/or depressed. It was a trial of my patience to read Cici's chapters because of her single-minded desire to climb the social ladder because where she came from wasn't good enough and I was very glad when she disappeared for most of the middle and end of the book, but Sam the drunk and June the boring weren't much better. Reading back on what I've written so far you might be wondering why I've given it two stars, instead of one. The writing was fine and there were no editing errors that I could see (high praise that is) and I try to save my one stars for books that hit the trifecta of bad - writing, plot and characters. I think I would have been better off reading a non-fiction on this topic, because my favourite part of the book was at the beginning when Beard was going into more detail about Oak Ridge and what work the women were unknowingly doing there. If there isn't a non-fiction book on the topic I think I'll see what trusty Wikipedia has to offer.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    I am an avid library abuser, last night I was number one for nine new releases, never one who wants to hold up the queue I can't wait to dive into the new stuff, loving historical fiction I grabbed this audio book first, after all I was number 29 in line for the kindle version, why wait! Bright and early I had my ears on and out to the garden I went... hmmm, it wasn't grabbing me, oh give it time, the meat of the story is just around the corner... I looked to see I was at 19% and still I was wai I am an avid library abuser, last night I was number one for nine new releases, never one who wants to hold up the queue I can't wait to dive into the new stuff, loving historical fiction I grabbed this audio book first, after all I was number 29 in line for the kindle version, why wait! Bright and early I had my ears on and out to the garden I went... hmmm, it wasn't grabbing me, oh give it time, the meat of the story is just around the corner... I looked to see I was at 19% and still I was waiting. At 60% I returned the audio and washed my hands of it. It felt like nothing but chic lit, I wanted substance, not straw sucking women seeking spouses, I wanted to LEARN. Just not for me, I love non fiction and historical fiction done well, but this was just pure fluff and I found myself angry to be wasting my time on something I didn't like when I have eight more new releases in the wings, something is bound to resonate more to my liking!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ace

    This book could have been so much more. My expectations were raised by the fact that it is not shelved here as a romance, but essentially it was exactly that with a bit of science. Very lightweight.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    An interesting slice of life historical set during the 1940’s that chronicles life on an army installation producing uranium in Tennessee.

  18. 5 out of 5

    ☕️Hélène⚜️

    This book left me with ?. Felt like there’s no continuity it felt boxed. I mean you had the story of Joe with the black community then June, Sam, Tom and Cici with the occasional other characters. It wasn’t fast paced it was so slow. This book was read for my quarterly postal group!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda Zagon

    imageWOW! Janet Beard, Author of “The Atomic City Girls” manages to write an intriguing and captivating novel. The Genres for this novel and Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for this story is the 1940’s. The story revolves around the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A town is set up with segregated homes, and amenities for the residents working in Oak Ridge. Everything is secretive, and the workers sign confidentiality agreements. Many of the workers are not aware that they imageWOW! Janet Beard, Author of “The Atomic City Girls” manages to write an intriguing and captivating novel. The Genres for this novel and Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for this story is the 1940’s. The story revolves around the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A town is set up with segregated homes, and amenities for the residents working in Oak Ridge. Everything is secretive, and the workers sign confidentiality agreements. Many of the workers are not aware that they are working together to create an atomic bomb. Young women monitor dials on a machine and have no idea why. The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. Most of the workers come here to make money. My favorite character is June Walker, an 18-year-old working her first job. She works hard and seems to be very laid back and quiet and I love that she shows growth in her character. She rooms with a manipulative roommate, Cici, who enjoys going to dances . June meets Sam Cantor, a Jewish top scientist who knows exactly what is going on with the atom bomb. Many members of Sam’s family were killed in Germany. Other scientists at the top are aware and have different feelings about making this bomb, and yet they can’t discuss it. I appreciate that the author weaves several stories within the novel, and several of the characters become involved in different ways. This is a time period in history that is hugely ignored and I was amazed to see what is happening, and how the “Atomic Age” started. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of Historical Fiction. I received an Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cammie

    The Atomic City Girls traces June Walker's journey from her small, rural hometown in Tennessee to Oak Ridge, Tennessee where she works in the Clinton Engineering Works turning dials for the war effort. The work is important and top secret but incredibly boring and tedious. June discovers much about herself and the world around her during her time in Oak Ridge. She makes and loses friends, falls in love, and gains independence. She becomes a far different person from this experience than if she h The Atomic City Girls traces June Walker's journey from her small, rural hometown in Tennessee to Oak Ridge, Tennessee where she works in the Clinton Engineering Works turning dials for the war effort. The work is important and top secret but incredibly boring and tedious. June discovers much about herself and the world around her during her time in Oak Ridge. She makes and loses friends, falls in love, and gains independence. She becomes a far different person from this experience than if she had not ever left her hometown. The different perspectives of June, Sam, Cici, and Joe flesh out the story with multiple character viewpoints--June and Cici working at the CEW, Joe works construction then as a custodian, and Sam is a scientist--all are patriotically working in Oak Ridge to assist the war effort. Since I listened to the audio, I missed out on the authentic pictures throughout the book; maybe I'll have to check it out from the library for the visual experience also.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Finished in one day! And it was a busy day too. That's how amazing this book was. So interesting and I was fully invested in the characters. Loved the real pictures throughout the book, loved the epilogue. I enjoyed the different characters and their stories. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ this will be one of my favorites of 2018! Finished in one day! And it was a busy day too. That's how amazing this book was. So interesting and I was fully invested in the characters. Loved the real pictures throughout the book, loved the epilogue. I enjoyed the different characters and their stories. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ this will be one of my favorites of 2018!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS is a quite good historical fiction which begins when the government begin acquiring the land on which Oak Ridge, Tennessee was built in the 1940's. The story is told by several different types of people who lived and worked there. These people, black and white, were helping to build the atomic bomb. Almost all of the folks employed at Oak Ridge had no idea what they were actually working on, and security was very tight. There are quite a few old photos of the site included. THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS is a quite good historical fiction which begins when the government begin acquiring the land on which Oak Ridge, Tennessee was built in the 1940's. The story is told by several different types of people who lived and worked there. These people, black and white, were helping to build the atomic bomb. Almost all of the folks employed at Oak Ridge had no idea what they were actually working on, and security was very tight. There are quite a few old photos of the site included. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Oak Ridge, and I highly recommend this novel. I received this book for an honest review. My copy is an uncorrected proof; this book will be released February 2018.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Robson

    As a writer very interested in both world wars, I immediately grabbed Atomic City Girls when I spied it at my local library. The pictures scattered throughout the book are an excellent guide to the world that is a secret government project - Oak Ridge Tennessee. The novel focuses on the lives of June Walker, who grew up on a farm nearby, Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York, African American construction worker Joe Brewer and Cici Roberts whose main aim in working at Oak Ridge is As a writer very interested in both world wars, I immediately grabbed Atomic City Girls when I spied it at my local library. The pictures scattered throughout the book are an excellent guide to the world that is a secret government project - Oak Ridge Tennessee. The novel focuses on the lives of June Walker, who grew up on a farm nearby, Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York, African American construction worker Joe Brewer and Cici Roberts whose main aim in working at Oak Ridge is to find herself a wealthy husband. Beard is a wonderful, subtle novelist who manages to blend the facts that she has obviously researched meticulously into a convincing narrative without making it obvious how much hard work has gone into the writing. And that is not always an easy thing to do. The prologue, where June’s grandfather is evicted from his own home in the resumption of land for the project, is a very good introduction to the world that is Atomic City. As a writer I trusted in her completely in her recreation of this world. I knew she would be as factual as she could be in her portrayal of the four main characters and it wasn’t until the close of the novel that I realised how carefully she had chosen the players in this drama. Here is June after she first arrives at Oak Ridge: “June was sent to a place called the bullpen, the training center where new employees had to wait while their security clearances came through. A throng of other girls sat in a white-walled room with a blackboard at the front where a tall man in a gray suit took roll just as in school and handed out a general information bulletin to them. “You are now a resident of Oak Ridge,” it read, “situated within a restricted military area..What you do here, what you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here.” Here is Sam soon after he arrives: “It was seven hours before he finally got a smoke, bummed from the engineer who was to be his roommate for the night. The young man was thrilled to find out that both he and Sam had grown up in New York City. Sam didn’t particularly feel like reminiscing about Coney Island and egg creams, but he desperately needed a cigarette, so he gave in to his roommate’s excitement. They puffed by the window of their small but hospitable room.” Here’s Joe in his freezing cold hut: “Joe tried to remember that heat, the awful insects humming above his head, and wondered if it was worse than this November cold. But summer seemed like a dream, impossible to recapture. At least now he’d gotten used to things. Those first months he had thought he wouldn’t be able to stand being away from his wife Moriah. On those sleepless, sweltering nights, he’d had half a mind to walk right out of the wretched hutment and hitch a ride down to Alabama where Moriah and the children were waiting. Now he knew he could stand it a little longer, make more money, get Moriah up here just as soon as possible.” And here’s Cici: “She had meant it when she told June that they’d be best friends. Her new roommate seemed sweet, and to tell the truth, Cici needed a friend. She’d never been good with other girls. Boys she knew how to talk to, but girls always seemed jealous; or maybe it was because she could be a little mean. She was competitive when it came to men, but you had to be, especially in times like these, when there were hardly any of them to go around. But June was perfect; she was mourning a dead fiancé and plain and shy, anyway. Cici was feeling happy and charitable. Things were going so well for her in Oak Ridge that she ought to share her happiness by reaching out to help this new girl.” How well does she evoke each different character? This is a very readable yet masterfully written novel. Highly recommended.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    novel based around the researching of the atomic bomb during the second world war

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Since historical fiction, particularly when it is set in the World War II era, is a favorite of mine I was excited to sign up this book tour. I like historical fiction that gives me a unique perspective of the war and I found the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small town built by the government in order to do research and produce materials and components in order to beat Germany in building an atomic weapon, fascinating. Los Alamos, New Mexico is most well known for The Manhatten Project and Since historical fiction, particularly when it is set in the World War II era, is a favorite of mine I was excited to sign up this book tour. I like historical fiction that gives me a unique perspective of the war and I found the setting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a small town built by the government in order to do research and produce materials and components in order to beat Germany in building an atomic weapon, fascinating. Los Alamos, New Mexico is most well known for The Manhatten Project and I confess to being unaware of the happenings in Oak Ridge. Equally unaware are the main character of the book, June Walker, and the other hundreds of young women like her who have come to Oak Ridge for the high-paying jobs operating machines that they don't know anything about. They sit for hours every day or night (depending on their shifts) in a booth while watching and monitoring the dials of a machine, but not being able to ask questions about their work or tell anyone what they are doing. In addition to June, the story unfolds from the perspective of three other characters, June's roommate Cici--another machine operator like June, African-American, Joe Brewer--who leaves his wife and young children to do construction work in Oak Ridge, along with his friend, the troubled Ralph, and finally Sam Cantor--a Jewish scientist who is the only one of the four characters who knows what the purpose of Oak Ridge really is. June becomes involved with Sam and gradually learns what is happening. June is a young eighteen, naive but eager to learn and very likable. Joe is another character I rooted for--wincing every time the bigotry and discrimination of the times reared its ugly head in the story. Sam is complicated--I wanted to like him and at times I did, and then there is Cici, solely out for herself in every thought and action. I was immediately caught up in the story of The Atomic City Girls and the book's close to 400 pages flew by. It is clear that Janet Beard did her research for the book and writes in a way that makes dusty, bustling Oak Ridge and the characters living there come to life. I found myself invested in these characters, wanting to know what would happen to them, especially June and Joe. I did want a bit more from the ending because after a lot of detail and build up, things actually wrap up rather quickly--although there is an epilogue that talks about what happens with the four main characters that I appreciated. The Atomic City Girls illuminated a piece of American history that I wasn't aware of and it had me googling Oak Ridge and its role in The Manhattan Project for more information. I was sorry to have the story end and recommend it especially for fans of World War II historical fiction. You can see my review plus a recipe inspired by the book on my blog post here: https://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/2... Note: A review copy of "The Atomic City Girls" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    This is the fictional account of a few residents of the Clinton Engineer Works production installation in Oak Ridge, TN during World War II. The story follows the lives of several very different people whose lives intertwine during the production of uranium in the secret bomb-making city. June and Cici are two young girls who are placed together in a dorm and become fast friends. Cici is out to find her an Army husband and June is looking for an escape from her droll life and the sad news that h This is the fictional account of a few residents of the Clinton Engineer Works production installation in Oak Ridge, TN during World War II. The story follows the lives of several very different people whose lives intertwine during the production of uranium in the secret bomb-making city. June and Cici are two young girls who are placed together in a dorm and become fast friends. Cici is out to find her an Army husband and June is looking for an escape from her droll life and the sad news that her fiance has died in battle. Joe and Ralph are long-time friends thrilled to be making more money than they would have a chance to back in Georgia. The job comes with downsides, as they are separated from family and find that life for black residents in Oak Ridge is no better than on the outside. Sam is a physicist who is asked to come to Oak Ridge to work on the bomb. He is one of a few people that know what is being produced at the CEW and sadly, he understands the possible outcome of the final product and the effects it can have on mankind. Each person has their history to deal with. All have some kind of struggle to overcome and Oak Ridge brings more chaos amidst some happy moments. Their stories are interesting and engaging and it is easy to fall into their world. They have triumphs and heartbreaking stories. Although the story and characters are fictionalized, they are based on real stories that the author mined from detailed research. I enjoyed this book and loved that the author added an epilogue to let the reader know what happened to these characters after the end of the war. Although it's fictionalized, it's easy to picture what the real people behind the stories must have dealt with in this super secret city. My only frustration is that the title indicates that the book is about the women at CEW, but the stories are as much about the men as the women. It is about families and individuals, white and black, men and women. There is another book by Denise Kiernan titled The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. Kiernan's book is the non-fiction, true story of several women who worked at the CEW. I had previously read Kiernan's book and had to check at one point to make sure I wasn't reading the same book. This is different but each could easily be a companion to the other. I was glad I had read Kiernan's book first. I think it added to my enjoyment of Beard's book. I do wish Beard had a completely different title that would not be easily confused with Kiernan's book and one that would give equal billing to the men as well as the women. I still recommend this to anyone interested in the CEW and the making of the atomic bomb during World War II.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    The title of this book should have just been The Atomic City. The word “Girls” in the title led me the reader thinking that the storyline would revolve mostly around women living and working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. However men characters took up too many chapters and Ralph in particular seemed to be just thrown in to take up space. I did enjoy the story though and actually learned a bit more about the Manhattan project and it’s relevance in history. Close to a 3.5 rating. I won this book from G The title of this book should have just been The Atomic City. The word “Girls” in the title led me the reader thinking that the storyline would revolve mostly around women living and working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. However men characters took up too many chapters and Ralph in particular seemed to be just thrown in to take up space. I did enjoy the story though and actually learned a bit more about the Manhattan project and it’s relevance in history. Close to a 3.5 rating. I won this book from Goodreads.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Griep

    Interesting material for a non-fiction book. The trouble is that The Atomic City Girls bills itself as a novel. Granted, it could just be me, but boy howdy. . .I just did not connect with the characters. It was like they didn't care about themselves, so why should I? It didn't help that the writing was a bit simplistic as well. But on the up side, this story does portray what life was like living and working in a top-secret community. If you have an interest in WWII, particularly in Y-12 or the Interesting material for a non-fiction book. The trouble is that The Atomic City Girls bills itself as a novel. Granted, it could just be me, but boy howdy. . .I just did not connect with the characters. It was like they didn't care about themselves, so why should I? It didn't help that the writing was a bit simplistic as well. But on the up side, this story does portray what life was like living and working in a top-secret community. If you have an interest in WWII, particularly in Y-12 or the Manhattan Project, then this would be a great read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jess Bondy

    WWII-era historical fiction is one of my all-time favorite genres, so I’ve read A LOT of those books. This one was unique because it took place only in America - more specifically Tennessee. I also really liked this read because although it bounced around from different character’s’ perspectives, the main people it focused on were women. I love learning about all of the (under-appreciated) ways that women helped the war effort, in a time that was especially male-dominated. Learning about the sca WWII-era historical fiction is one of my all-time favorite genres, so I’ve read A LOT of those books. This one was unique because it took place only in America - more specifically Tennessee. I also really liked this read because although it bounced around from different character’s’ perspectives, the main people it focused on were women. I love learning about all of the (under-appreciated) ways that women helped the war effort, in a time that was especially male-dominated. Learning about the scare tactics and threats that our own government used to keep the fact that we were building an atomic bomb from its own people, even the people working on it.... it’s crazy. 🤯 ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Janet Beard’s writing was easy and smooth; I cruised right on through the pages. Also- PICTURES! 🤩 Beard included images acquired from the Department of Energy to accompany each chapter, which was a fun added touch! They really helped me to picture what the town of Oak Ridge was really like back in the 40s. And I don’t even remember the last time I got to read a picture book!! ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ Overall, recommend; especially if you like historical fiction mixed with a little romance! ⁣

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    To say that The Atomic City Girls is disappointing is to mildly understand the sentiment. I had high hopes of an intimate glimpse into life in Oak Ridge with its layers of secrets. I thought it would be another war novel that is both educational and entertaining. Unfortunately, it is neither of those things, in my opinion, which only compounds my longing for what could have been instead of what is. For the amount of time we see June and her girlfriends actually working, the story could literally To say that The Atomic City Girls is disappointing is to mildly understand the sentiment. I had high hopes of an intimate glimpse into life in Oak Ridge with its layers of secrets. I thought it would be another war novel that is both educational and entertaining. Unfortunately, it is neither of those things, in my opinion, which only compounds my longing for what could have been instead of what is. For the amount of time we see June and her girlfriends actually working, the story could literally take place anywhere. Seriously, we see June at her station doing mysterious things for all of a page or two. That is all that ties June to the Manhattan Project. She shows curiosity but only after she meets and begins to date the physicist. Even then, we do not get specifics on what these so-called Atomic City girls were actually doing for the project. To me, it makes the title feel like a misnomer in a way because we don’t get to see what they are doing to help win the war. Instead, Ms. Beard chooses to focus on what happens when the girls do not work. There is a lot of flirting, more dancing, shopping, going to movies, and really living the high life. In a way, it is a bit disturbing just how much June enjoys her life in Oak Ridge and the luxuries to which she has access while the rest of the country is on strict rationing. Cici, the roommate, proves to be a money-grubbing socialite wannabe who is willing to do just about whatever it takes to find herself a wealthy husband. She is the cold-hearted bitch to Jane’s country girl wholesomeness, and both are more than a little sickening in their self-righteousness. Because focusing on the girls’ social life is not enough apparently, Ms. Beard also throws in the addition of Joe Brewer. If I were a cynical person – and I am – I would surmise that Joe appears in the book in an effort to diversify it and so she can show that while the girls were living large, the African-American workers were stuck in little more than cardboard shanties with fewer available amenities and much more difficult labor. He provides an opportunity to show the racial divide in Tennessee in the 1940s, which is neither a surprise nor shocking in its ugliness. While there is an attempt to connect all of the characters, the connection is flimsy at best and is a convenient plot device at worst. The Atomic City Girls is supposed to show the morality issues associated with building the first nuclear weapon and the lengths to which the government was willing to go to not only keep it a secret but also to keep its workers happy so that they would stay on the job and finish the task. The morality though comes across as very black and white. You have those who celebrate the weapon, once it becomes public knowledge, knowing it is the best way to end the war. Then you have those who are so appalled at what they built that they struggle live with the guilt. Ms. Beard shows almost nothing in-between the two opinions, even though you would think that is where most of the workers on the Manhattan Project would fall into that middle gray area. The whole story comes across as soap operatic, complete with fights over men and women backstabbing each other. The connections between all characters remain nebulous no matter how much Ms. Beard tries to bring them together into a cohesive cast. Any connections make no difference because no of the characters are ones that tug on your emotions. They are all flat, relatively insipid and uninteresting. Worst of all though is the utter lack of information I learned from reading this novel. I wanted to learn what these Atomic City girls did for the project and learned nothing. Instead, I got a doomed, wartime love story crossed with a forced morality tale about the dangers of blindly following orders with an added glimpse at the racial injustices that existed in the day. Were it well-written with compelling characters, it might be easier to overlook the lack of atomic anything in The Atomic City Girls. Instead, I closed the last page knowing this is one I should have DNF’d but was too stubborn to do so.

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