109 East Palace

109 East Palace

Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos


In 1943, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant, charismatic head of the Manhattan Project, recruited scientists to live as virtual prisoners of the U.S. government at Los Alamos, a barren mesa thirty-five miles outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thousands of men, women, and children spent the war years sequestered in this top-secret military facility. They lied to friends and family about where they were going and what they were doing, and then disappeared into the desert. Through the eyes of a young Santa Fe widow who was one of Oppenheimer’s first recruits, we see how, for all his flaws, he developed into an inspiring leader and motivated all those involved in the Los Alamos project to make a supreme effort and achieve the unthinkable. In 2006, it won the Spirit of the West Award for literary achievement in non-fiction.





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Simon & Schuster | 448 pages | ISBN 9780743250085 | May 2006



“A spellbinding account of a venture that often teetered on the brink while the future of the world lay at stake…. Vividly told, the interplay of personalities that would ultimately transform the world.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The Manhattan Project was a chapter of history rich in the drama of human strengths and frailties, as Jennet Conant chronicles in her illuminating 109 East Palace…. Yet, for all the doubts and hardships, the scientists and workers at Los Alamos were part of something extraordinary…. Thanks to Conant’s vivid book, we understand why.”—BusinessWeek

“A haunting, beautifully realized and highly entertaining story…. A stunning accomplishment.”—Edmonton Journal

“Terrifically engaging reading…. A story that, especially in times of uncertain security, we should read and heed.”—San Jose Mercury News

“Bears the weight of inexorable drama…. Excels in showing how bedeviled the brilliant, oddly spineless but extraordinarily powerful Oppenheimer was.”—St. Petersburg Times

“More than any other account of Los Alamos that I’ve read, Conant’s narrative evokes the texture of life there…. A well-told narrative of daily life in a top-secret operation.”—Newsday


Washington Post: Los Alamos Marks 70 Years Since Trinity Test Gave Us The Bomb