cover image Trinity


Louisa Hall. Harper, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-285196-3

Hall’s ingeniously structured novel is a fictionalized biographical portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the controversial director of the Manhattan Project, as witnessed by seven individuals who came in contact with him at different points in his life: a conflicted army intelligence agent, a romantically beset Women’s Army Corps member at Los Alamos, an old academic friend with a faulty memory, a married Princeton secretary suffering from an eating disorder, a closeted lesbian neighbor on the island of St. John, an impressionable New England prep school student, and a female journalist recovering from a broken marriage. Through their eyes, readers see Oppenheimer sneak a tryst in San Francisco in 1943, count down to the day of the Trinity Test, protest the development of the hydrogen bomb during the Red Scare, and try to repair his reputation after his security clearance is revoked. Hovering in the background of all these stories is Jean Tatlock, his Communist lover, who committed suicide in 1944 and whose ghost seems to haunt Oppenheimer’s every move. Hall (Speak) excels at creating distinct characters whose voices illuminate their own lives and challenges, as well as the historical period that saw Oppenheimer’s fall from grace. Taken together, they only burnish the endlessly fascinating enigma of the flawed genius who became known as the father of the atomic bomb.[em] (Oct.) [/em]