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From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repe From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repeatedly lied about love affairs. And he defended the use of the atomic bomb he helped create, before ultimately lobbying against nuclear proliferation. Through narratives that cross time and space, a set of characters bears witness to the life of Oppenheimer, from a secret service agent who tailed him in San Francisco, to the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, to a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women fall into the orbit of a brilliant but mercurial mind at work, all consider his complicated legacy while also uncovering deep and often unsettling truths about their own lives. In this stunning, elliptical novel, Louisa Hall has crafted a breathtaking and explosive story about the ability of the human mind to believe what it wants, about public and private tragedy, and about power and guilt. Blending science with literature and fiction with biography, Trinity asks searing questions about what it means to truly know someone, and about the secrets we keep from the world and from ourselves.


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From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repe From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repeatedly lied about love affairs. And he defended the use of the atomic bomb he helped create, before ultimately lobbying against nuclear proliferation. Through narratives that cross time and space, a set of characters bears witness to the life of Oppenheimer, from a secret service agent who tailed him in San Francisco, to the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, to a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women fall into the orbit of a brilliant but mercurial mind at work, all consider his complicated legacy while also uncovering deep and often unsettling truths about their own lives. In this stunning, elliptical novel, Louisa Hall has crafted a breathtaking and explosive story about the ability of the human mind to believe what it wants, about public and private tragedy, and about power and guilt. Blending science with literature and fiction with biography, Trinity asks searing questions about what it means to truly know someone, and about the secrets we keep from the world and from ourselves.

30 review for Trinity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    When you start thinking about Oppenheimer, there is one big place your mind tends to go: how do you live the rest of your life after creating what may be the end of humanity? How do you live knowing all the people who have died because of your discovery? How do you separate the scientific search of knowledge from the human exploitation of that knowledge? In Louisa Hall's novel those questions are definitely there, but they're also secondary to smaller, more personal questions about causing harm When you start thinking about Oppenheimer, there is one big place your mind tends to go: how do you live the rest of your life after creating what may be the end of humanity? How do you live knowing all the people who have died because of your discovery? How do you separate the scientific search of knowledge from the human exploitation of that knowledge? In Louisa Hall's novel those questions are definitely there, but they're also secondary to smaller, more personal questions about causing harm to those you love most. In these interconnected stories, Oppenheimer is the central figure but the central thread is how we love, how we hurt those we love, and how we stop loving. If you're wondering what Oppenheimer has to do with that kind of question, it's answered for us quite early in the book. Oppenheimer cheated on his wife Kitty, and then years later had to answer questions about the affair in front of a congressional hearing while his wife sat in the crowd listening. The characters around Oppenheimer have their own romantic betrayals, both given and received. They consider their lovers and spouses and wonder if they can ever truly know them or if they themselves are really known. It took me a little while to get into this book. The first of the chapters had me a bit off kilter and I am not always patient enough to take the time to orient myself. But I read Hall's previous novel, SPEAK, which also used interconnected stories to explore big questions (in that book, questions of thought and consciousness and technology) so I kept coming back to it until it stuck and it was worth the effort. It didn't quite hit me in the gut the way SPEAK did, though the reasons are more structural than anything else, but as someone who has always approached Oppenheimer's work and the work of other scientists as a science person, I enjoyed changing my point of view. There's also a lot here on McCarthyism and suspicion, the limitations put on women in mid-century America, jealousy, and more. I appreciated how many of these stories were narrated by women, definitely not what you'd get from a male writer taking on a similar project, and was especially pleased that one section was focused on a queer couple. This is a thoughtful book that is not going to give you easy answers. It's going to make you work a bit, it's going to make you look for the connections and work to see the questions it's asking. But if you're willing to make the effort, it's worth it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction? Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or relia How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction? Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or reliable knowledge” do we begin to feel “people pass through or, or over us and around us.” She invents seven characters who give testimonials about their own fledgling acquaintances with Oppenheimer – from an Army intelligence officer who tails Oppenheimer during his tryst with his lover Jean to a married Princeton secretary in the throes of an eating disorder to a betrayed journalist who is assigned to interview the scientist in his last dying days. But in circuitously talking about Oppenheimer, they inevitably end up telling their own tale, and the tale is a universal one: it is a tale of insecurity, secrets, the seeking of meaning. Each – including Oppenheimer – is pursued like Henry James’ mythical beast in the jungle, the as-yet-unknowable hunter. Robert Oppenheimer, Louisa Hall suggests, is part of us. We are all inadvertent liars and poor witnesses to history; for example, within the book, there are several versions of Oppenheimer’s affair with Jean Tatlock and similarly, many versions of what Oppenheimer’s inner life must have been like. But more dauntingly, we are all complicit with a program that killed 129,000 people when, according to most historians, the war had already been won – choosing later to accuse him of betrayal instead of a more horrific crime. The novel almost begs you, the reader, to examine your own beliefs about this flawed genius: did he create a weapon that ended World War II early or did he unleash Pandora’s box onto a once-innocent world? I have come to believe the latter, but each of us must decide on our own. This multi-layered and creatively-rendered novel provides fleeting glimpses – not deep dives – into Oppenheimer but its main goal is to use Oppenheimer as a mirror who reflects back to all of us. 4.5 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I was a big fan of Speak, Hall’s second novel, a story of artificial intelligence and communication that is composed of six narratives ranging from a seventeenth-century diary to the lament of a robot discarded in the desert in the near future. Trinity again fractures the message through a lot of different voices: seven “testimonials” from fictional narrators whose lives overlapped with Robert Oppenheimer’s between 1943 and 1966. They include Los Alamos and Princeton colleagues, acquaintances fr I was a big fan of Speak, Hall’s second novel, a story of artificial intelligence and communication that is composed of six narratives ranging from a seventeenth-century diary to the lament of a robot discarded in the desert in the near future. Trinity again fractures the message through a lot of different voices: seven “testimonials” from fictional narrators whose lives overlapped with Robert Oppenheimer’s between 1943 and 1966. They include Los Alamos and Princeton colleagues, acquaintances from later in life, and a journalist who comes to interview him as he’s dying of inoperable cancer. The idea is to give glimpses into the life of a troubled and difficult figure, and I did value the comments on secrecy and guilt. My favorite section was by Sally Connelly, an overweight would-be writer who stops eating when she becomes the secretary to Oppenheimer, then the director of the Institute for Advanced Study, a year and a half before his security hearing. But in the end none of these characters seem to matter. You question their presentation of Oppenheimer, and Oppenheimer’s presentation of himself, but most of the testimonials add very little to the whole picture. I especially wearied of the final chapter. If you’re at all interested in Oppenheimer’s life story, you’d be better served reading American Prometheus. Favorite lines: “Robert told me his whole story, though of course sometimes there were holes. If a man told his life’s story and didn’t leave any holes, it would take him more than a lifetime to tell it.” (Sally Connelly) “how, I thought, could I try to know a man like Oppenheimer—who created the weapons he did, who, though he probably didn’t intend to, ushered us into an era of anxiety unlike any era before ours—in any state other than fear and uncertainty?” (Helen Childs, the journalist)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction? Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or relia How should we think about Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb? Was he a thirsty seeker of knowledge, a scientist who believed it was one’s ultimate duty to discover what is unknown? Was he a betrayer of friends, his wife, his country, the man who unleashed the mighty power of the ultimate weapon of destruction? Louisa Hall suggests this: that “only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or reliable knowledge” do we begin to feel “people pass through or, or over us and around us.” She invents seven characters who give testimonials about their own fledgling acquaintances with Oppenheimer – from an Army intelligence officer who tails Oppenheimer during his tryst with his lover Jean to a married Princeton secretary in the throes of an eating disorder to a betrayed journalist who is assigned to interview the scientist in his last dying days. But in circuitously talking about Oppenheimer, they inevitably end up telling their own tale, and the tale is a universal one: it is a tale of insecurity, secrets, the seeking of meaning. Each – including Oppenheimer – is pursued like Henry James’ mythical beast in the jungle, the as-yet-unknowable hunter. Robert Oppenheimer, Louisa Hall suggests, is part of us. We are all inadvertent liars and poor witnesses to history; for example, within the book, there are several versions of Oppenheimer’s affair with Jean Tatlock and similarly, many versions of what Oppenheimer’s inner life must have been like. But more dauntingly, we are all complicit with a program that killed 129,000 people when, according to most historians, the war had already been won – choosing later to accuse him of betrayal instead of a more horrific crime. The novel almost begs you, the reader, to examine your own beliefs about this flawed genius: did he create a weapon that ended World War II early or did he unleash Pandora’s box onto a once-innocent world? I have come to believe the latter, but each of us must decide on our own. This multi-layered and creatively-rendered novel provides fleeting glimpses – not deep dives – into Oppenheimer but its main goal is to use Oppenheimer as a mirror who reflects back to all of us.

  5. 5 out of 5

    KC

    Through various narrative, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances reveal through interconnected accounts the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant scientist and man behind the atomic bomb. Over multiple years, lives are compromised and destroyed in more ways than one, leaving us to ponder the phrases "a weapon to end the use of all weapons" and "a violence to end all other forms of violence". This work of historic fiction will leave readers with a great deal to contemplate.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    I had never of novelist Louisa Hall before I read her new book, "Trinity". Set in a range of places from Los Alamos to Princeton to San Francisco, the book tells the story - a story - about J Robert Oppenheim, developer of the atomic bomb. Hall does this by writing "short stories" as chapters, using narrators who often have a sketchy connection with Oppenheimer and his life. The reader soon realises that some of these narrators are less than reliable in the stories and interpretations they're gi I had never of novelist Louisa Hall before I read her new book, "Trinity". Set in a range of places from Los Alamos to Princeton to San Francisco, the book tells the story - a story - about J Robert Oppenheim, developer of the atomic bomb. Hall does this by writing "short stories" as chapters, using narrators who often have a sketchy connection with Oppenheimer and his life. The reader soon realises that some of these narrators are less than reliable in the stories and interpretations they're giving. Who was J Robert Oppenheimer? I'd advise reading a Wiki entry on him to get the broad outlines of his life and accomplishments. Two years ago, I read a biography of Oppenheimer, "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer", by Kai Bird. Bird's book is over 700 pages; Hall's book is about half the size. But Bird has written a straight biography, whereas Louisa Hall has written a novel - with fictional characters providing a lot of information. Is it truth or is it fantasy? Part and part? I read and enjoyed the book but still don't know how to describe it. Perhaps the best way to describe this book is to say it as much about the supplementary characters as it is about Oppenheimer. The other question is: does Louisa Hall have an agenda in writing her book? It's very clear that she is bitterly against the development and then dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan to end WW2. She - or her characters - blame Oppenheimer for the dropping of the bombs, yet those decisions were made by President Truman, his cabinet, and the US Army. If you want to blame Robert Oppenheimer for something, blame him for taking the job offered by the government to develop the bombs. Everything Hall writes about the damages done by the bombs concern the Japanese victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who were continually affected by the radiation after the dropping of the two bombs. No where in her book, that I could find, did she write about the pluses of using the bombs - shortening the war and saving possibly millions of lives of Japanese who would have died defending the invasion of the home islands, as well as the hundreds of thousands of prisoners in China, Indo-China, and other Japanese war holdings who were treated miserably by their captors. (I do want to say that I lived in Santa Fe for eight years and traveled often "up the mountain" to see Los Alamos, as well as taken classes and heard speeches by scientists and historians who say we needed to drop the bombs. I am a life-long liberal who hates the ideas of the bombs, but have come to the conclusion they were needed. A short but superb work of non-fiction I can recommend is "Five Days in August" by Princeton professor of history, Michael Gordin" on the subject.) Okay, to return to Louisa Hall's novel, I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. She's an excellent writer and as long as you're not taking what she writes as gospel, "Trinity" is good reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    A fictional narrative about James Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb and how he lived his life after his role in causing so much death and destruction. But the book also hits on the McCarthyism of the time and Oppenheimer’s cheating on his wife, Kitty, which he ends up testifying to in court. Seven fictional narrators tell the story from seven different perspectives and it becomes clear that we never really know what is going on in another’s mind or what their true motives or feelings may be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Really interesting read, and Hall does a remarkable job of giving all of the different narrators a distinct voice. I liked the concept of trying to understand Oppenheimer through the people who interacted with him, even tangentially. But the conclusion was somewhat unsatisfying, which may have been the point, but it still was a little disappointing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rāhul

    Robert Oppenheimer, whose biography was aptly titled American Prometheus, was a renaissance man. He stood tall among the great generation of physicists in the mid-20th century who dealt with the awesome power of the atomic weaponry that was a consequence of their ingenuity. Having led the Manhattan project, he was discredited publicly during the McCarthy years for ties to Communism, but was later rehabilitated, and is now seen as a victim of the political excesses of the period. In this novel st Robert Oppenheimer, whose biography was aptly titled American Prometheus, was a renaissance man. He stood tall among the great generation of physicists in the mid-20th century who dealt with the awesome power of the atomic weaponry that was a consequence of their ingenuity. Having led the Manhattan project, he was discredited publicly during the McCarthy years for ties to Communism, but was later rehabilitated, and is now seen as a victim of the political excesses of the period. In this novel strung through testimonies of fictional characters who touched on Oppenheimer's life, Louisa Hall sheds an illuminating glance on his story, not the grand public tragedy but the many minor failings of an entirely human life. The testimonies touch on pivotal events in Oppenheimer's life- on a visit to an old lover in San Fransisco, in the final years of the project at Los Alamos, at the Trinity test site, among old academic friends in Europe, during his rehabilitation lecture in the Kennedy years, and in the dusk of his life in Princeton- and they show how deceptions and cowardly cover-ups of the banalities of everyday life could grow into great adversities, given the right enemies and circumstances. This work of fiction did more for me to humanize this great scientist and thinker than multiple profiles and testimonies by fellow scientists. A second thread weaving the stories is a strong conviction of the immorality of the atomic bombing of Japanese cities at a time when that country was already on its knees and the Soviet Union had also entered the pacific war, further tilting the scales against Japan. Perhaps because of the power of the American narrative in post- WW2 world, the justification of those bombings as an attempt to avoid the loss of further lives in an invasion of Japan holds wide currency at home and abroad today. This novel challenges that self-serving argument, and might well be part of a new wave of literature in the 21st century questioning that original use of nuclear weapons in pursuit of national power during that brief window of time when it might have been possible to put them under permanent international control.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mich

    Trinity is the name J. Robert Oppenheimer gave to the test of the atom bomb at Los Alamos prior to its bombing of Hiroshima. The characters in this novel by Louisa Hall are both fictional and real. Hall uses seven characters in seven chapters to describe their recollections/testaments through interactions with Oppenheimer. Some of these interactions are so minor, they hardly add to the understanding of Oppenheimer and are more descriptive of the persons recounting their own lives. Other chapters Trinity is the name J. Robert Oppenheimer gave to the test of the atom bomb at Los Alamos prior to its bombing of Hiroshima. The characters in this novel by Louisa Hall are both fictional and real. Hall uses seven characters in seven chapters to describe their recollections/testaments through interactions with Oppenheimer. Some of these interactions are so minor, they hardly add to the understanding of Oppenheimer and are more descriptive of the persons recounting their own lives. Other chapters provide more information about him. The book provides a fair amount of factual information about Oppenheimer that is already well-known and is not intended to provide more factual information. At times during my reading, I felt compelled to google actual events. For example, one of the chapters features Kitty (Oppenheimer’s wife) and “Chester”. It would have helped me if I could have known from the outset that this was his code-name since for several pages I had no idea who this was. Hall uses the fictional characters telling their stories to raise her own questions about Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, and his motives regarding relations with other women, objections to the H-bomb tests, his membership in the Communist party, possible spying/support to Russia, the McCarthy hearings where he “gave up” colleagues, and his lies. Hall, who also writes poetry, uses her descriptive skills to soften some of what otherwise could have been a serious polemic and writes extremely well so that the book moves very rapidly. Her weaving together of external references, such as Crime and Punishment are masterful. She uses her own narrative skills to question her own thoughts about Oppenheimer as an enigma. The construction of the book as a fictional historical biography gives license to Hall to express her own thoughts about Oppenheimer. She does a great job.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Clio

    I read Speak last year when the cover called to me from a library shelf. When this came out I wanted to read it right away because there is something so different, so special about Louisa Hall's writing. She makes me fall in love over and over again with her characters. Somehow she switches between them frequently and they're flawed and maybe typically "unlikeable"but she makes me understand them so well I love them - which is especially interesting in this book threaded with the question of "ho I read Speak last year when the cover called to me from a library shelf. When this came out I wanted to read it right away because there is something so different, so special about Louisa Hall's writing. She makes me fall in love over and over again with her characters. Somehow she switches between them frequently and they're flawed and maybe typically "unlikeable"but she makes me understand them so well I love them - which is especially interesting in this book threaded with the question of "how well can you really understand another person?" In this (fictional) book, we are viewing Robert Oppenheimer from the "testimonials" of several people who knew him throughout his life and career, interspersed with a little countdown to the Trinity test - "We knew the world would not be the same" - Robert Oppenheimer - this is the ultimate moment of a life that has "crystallized" and become something to everyone Oppenheimer encounters from this point on. "We tell our lives to other people like stories. We make characters out of ourselves. If we're skilled, we make ourselves seem almost lifelike." "It's then, when we're left with nothing more than the shadows of events that have already dematerialized, that we're compelled to add layers of detail, as if we might give substance to shadows, converting them into the status of objects." "I thought that perhaps it's only in those moments between the slides of the kaleidoscope, those moments of a life that never crystallize into practiced anecdote or reliable knowledge, that we close our eyes and people pass through us, or over us and around us, as a wave sweeps us off our feet and makes us another part of its motion. Then, I thought, in that moment of unknowing, there's no difference between us."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I gave this book a 4 star rating for two unusual reasons. #1 - I learned a lot about Tobert Oppenheimer - not a go-to subject for me but the format of the story gave information without it being overwhelmingly just facts. #2 - The format the author used to present the story was unusual yet very enjoyable. The author presented seven fictional characters to tell the story of how they knew Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb), the time frame that they knew him and insight into his life as I gave this book a 4 star rating for two unusual reasons. #1 - I learned a lot about Tobert Oppenheimer - not a go-to subject for me but the format of the story gave information without it being overwhelmingly just facts. #2 - The format the author used to present the story was unusual yet very enjoyable. The author presented seven fictional characters to tell the story of how they knew Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb), the time frame that they knew him and insight into his life as well as enlightening aspects of the characters life. Each character gave a narrative; each chapter was a "testament" from each character. The fictional characters had interesting and philosophical events going on in their lives which added to the historical aspects in the life of Oppenheimer. Hall details the testing of the atomic bomb, of which Oppenheimer developed, the launch of the A bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki plus takes him through the years when he testified against friends during the McCarthy trials against the Communist Party. The last testament in the book was very philosophical in nature. Hall did a good summary and the story came full circle. A surprisingly likeable read for me!! (A Likely Story Bookstore ARC)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Glen U

    "Trinity" is billed as a fictional biography about the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. In a series of vignettes, utilizing seven fictional characters and some true facts and documented situations that actually occurred, Hall pieces together a book about human nature using Oppenheimer, as her focal point. She infers the emotions that Oppenheimer went through in his early life at Berkeley, his development of the atomic bomb during World War 2, his guilt and resistance of it being us "Trinity" is billed as a fictional biography about the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. In a series of vignettes, utilizing seven fictional characters and some true facts and documented situations that actually occurred, Hall pieces together a book about human nature using Oppenheimer, as her focal point. She infers the emotions that Oppenheimer went through in his early life at Berkeley, his development of the atomic bomb during World War 2, his guilt and resistance of it being used against Japan, his affairs of heart and his subsequent downfall during the McCarthy era. The book does not focus so much on the man, but more on the human condition of love, guilt, honor, and betrayal that is associated with his life and the people that interacted with him. An introspective book exploring what makes us individuals and what consequences are associated with living a life, whether a scientific genius or a simple confused human being, the book is less a biography than a novel of emotive stories, tenuously connected to Oppenheimer. Enjoyable, well written, and a good read, but if you are interested in a detailed account of the life of Robert Oppenheimer, you would be better served with one of the many conventional biographies written about him.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    Until the last 80 pages of this 320 page novel, I read ready to give it a 5. It is, as the jacket describes it, an "elliptical" story, told from various points of view, about Oppenheimer and the bomb. More than that, it is a novel about public and private tragedy, power, guilt, and betrayal, about the uncertainty of our knowledge (and science), unintended and intended consequences, about humans, yes but resonating with the power of Greek myth. The last chapter then falls into a slough of OCD det Until the last 80 pages of this 320 page novel, I read ready to give it a 5. It is, as the jacket describes it, an "elliptical" story, told from various points of view, about Oppenheimer and the bomb. More than that, it is a novel about public and private tragedy, power, guilt, and betrayal, about the uncertainty of our knowledge (and science), unintended and intended consequences, about humans, yes but resonating with the power of Greek myth. The last chapter then falls into a slough of OCD details delving into the life of a character that has no (or perhaps the most tenuous, rice-noodle-like) connection to anyone else in the book, too much like one would expect from a privileged self-obsessed American, saying what had already been said better before that, and could have been tied up in 20 pages rather than 80. Could have been a good short story maybe, in the New Yorker. In my view, it spoils a wonderful, thoughtful, carefully observed novel. And yet and yet...the book stays with me, haunts me. Even as I read "Speak" her subsequent novel. Yes the last chapter seems too long, too self-obsessed, too oblique. Hall could make her point in half the number of pages. Or perhaps not. So having given the book a 3, I have put the rating back up to 4. A wonderful writer of fiction about science and the possibility of knowing - or not -- others and ourselves.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janna Wong

    3.5. Trinity is a somewhat engrossing novel but it sometimes strays from its intent, making the reading of it a little bit of a slog. The novel is split into three sections involving J. Robert Oppenheimer -- before the bomb, during the testing of the bomb and after the bomb. It is fascinating to see how the inventor of the bomb reacted to his life's work. The novel also includes the "testimonies" of seven fictional characters who had different and various interactions with Oppenheimer. Sometimes 3.5. Trinity is a somewhat engrossing novel but it sometimes strays from its intent, making the reading of it a little bit of a slog. The novel is split into three sections involving J. Robert Oppenheimer -- before the bomb, during the testing of the bomb and after the bomb. It is fascinating to see how the inventor of the bomb reacted to his life's work. The novel also includes the "testimonies" of seven fictional characters who had different and various interactions with Oppenheimer. Sometimes, these testimonies are engaging and enrich our understanding of Oppie's life but other times (the last testimony by Helen Childs, for example), they are unwieldy, have very little to do with Oppie himself and more to do with the life of the person providing the testimonial. Still, Louisa Hall's novel presents Oppenheimer in a way that is unique and different from the man we know as the father of the atomic bomb.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    I enjoyed the concept -- that a series of fictional persons who had interacted with Oppenheimer at various points -- could shed light on who he was a complex, great, flawed person. The final narrator: "And yet, watching him now, I realized how small and weak he really was. I realized that he, too, lived in the same uncertain world, and that he had always lived in that world, even when hew as making those weapons, imagining he was in control of their outcome, not yet knowing that he in fact had n I enjoyed the concept -- that a series of fictional persons who had interacted with Oppenheimer at various points -- could shed light on who he was a complex, great, flawed person. The final narrator: "And yet, watching him now, I realized how small and weak he really was. I realized that he, too, lived in the same uncertain world, and that he had always lived in that world, even when hew as making those weapons, imagining he was in control of their outcome, not yet knowing that he in fact had no say over when and who the army would use them, indeed over when and how the army and the president had already decided to use them, and for what reasons, and to what end. I had imagined -- he had imagined -- that he had some power over those forces, but in fact he was only a small, helpless part of a process that was bigger than him and that he hadn't yet comprehended." (316).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    After an intriguing start, this book dropped off a cliff for me. The first few chapters were clever, fun to read and kept me interested. As the book continued however, I found the chapters less and less interesting. The last chapter made me cringe. Page after page of similar thoughts and feelings having to do with an infidelity. In fact, I skipped paragraphs (which I almost never do) in frustration. It could be my fault -- that I don't quite understand what the infidelity chapter added to Oppenh After an intriguing start, this book dropped off a cliff for me. The first few chapters were clever, fun to read and kept me interested. As the book continued however, I found the chapters less and less interesting. The last chapter made me cringe. Page after page of similar thoughts and feelings having to do with an infidelity. In fact, I skipped paragraphs (which I almost never do) in frustration. It could be my fault -- that I don't quite understand what the infidelity chapter added to Oppenheimer's story -- but even so, the rambling and repetitive nature of the book's final chapter left me shaking my head and disappointed. I would not recommend this one.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anne Goodwin

    What kind of man could build a bomb that killed 129,000 people and maimed many more? How did he live with himself afterwards? Louisa Hall’s thoughtful third novel takes a sideways look at Robert Oppenheimer through the “testimonials” of seven fictional characters whose lives momentarily brushed against his. From the secret agent who tails him in San Francisco in 1943, when he goes dancing with a former lover and suspected communist sympathiser, to the journalist of American and Japanese heritage What kind of man could build a bomb that killed 129,000 people and maimed many more? How did he live with himself afterwards? Louisa Hall’s thoughtful third novel takes a sideways look at Robert Oppenheimer through the “testimonials” of seven fictional characters whose lives momentarily brushed against his. From the secret agent who tails him in San Francisco in 1943, when he goes dancing with a former lover and suspected communist sympathiser, to the journalist of American and Japanese heritage who interviews him in Princeton in 1966 for an article that might form part of his obituary, each perceives the father of the atomic bomb through the prism of their own conflicts and concerns. Full review Novel perspectives on weapons and warfare: Red Birds & Trinity https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Padgett

    I really enjoy local author Louisa Hall’s writing. I had read her book on artificial intelligence called Speak last year and it was similar to this in that she weaves historical characters with fictional ones to tell a story through several different first person accounts. This one followed the life of Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project. This type of fiction and subject matter are not what I normally read. But her writing is at times lyrical and haunting in a way that relates some I really enjoy local author Louisa Hall’s writing. I had read her book on artificial intelligence called Speak last year and it was similar to this in that she weaves historical characters with fictional ones to tell a story through several different first person accounts. This one followed the life of Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan Project. This type of fiction and subject matter are not what I normally read. But her writing is at times lyrical and haunting in a way that relates something equally haunting about our humanity, which makes Hall’s variety of truth-telling quite lovely.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Intriguing! I like the concept of an elliptical portrait, kind of just looking at the man’s shadow to determine his form (as per the book cover I guess!). However, the self-contained, novella-like chapters gradually swing away from the subject, such that the last one barely mentions him. Which, honestly, is fine—it’s better in concept than in execution. There’s an interesting variation of styles in the chapters, but there’s a sameness about the stories until the last one. That one is worth stayi Intriguing! I like the concept of an elliptical portrait, kind of just looking at the man’s shadow to determine his form (as per the book cover I guess!). However, the self-contained, novella-like chapters gradually swing away from the subject, such that the last one barely mentions him. Which, honestly, is fine—it’s better in concept than in execution. There’s an interesting variation of styles in the chapters, but there’s a sameness about the stories until the last one. That one is worth staying for, but I do wish there weren’t so much in between. I’d maybe recommend reading the first three and then skipping to the end.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Miller

    A unique historical fiction novel based on the life of Robert Oppenheimer told from a series of narratives. The narratives are described by seven fictional characters that surround Oppenheimer in his years at Berkeley, Los Alamos and Princeton. Besides being a study of the man and the morality of the atomic bomb it offers a perspective on the politics of the period. A nonlinear plot it requires careful reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Braxwall

    Oppenheimers liv under och efter Manhattanprojektets slutfas berättat genom ett antal personer i hans närhet. Låter som ett bra uppslag för en fiktiv novell men tyvärr lyckas författaren inte berätta särskilt mycket om Oppenheimer. Bokens eventuella förtjänst skulle väl vara att ganska väl speglar hur ointressanta eller tendentiösa historiska källor ofta visar sig vara efter att ha underkastats källkritiska principer.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    4.5 stars. I really liked this book. This is my first book by Louisa Hall and it won't be my last. I liked the writing and the writing style. It's fictional story told from several view points but I still learned plenty about Oppenheimer and events that occurred, and the timeframe in which the novel is set. For me, it was a very good read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hillary Copsey

    This is almost a collection of connected short stories as Hall imagines a series of people offering their testimonials about Robert Oppenheimer. It made me want to read more about him and the creation of the atomic bomb. I loved it nearly as much as the first novel by Hall I read, Speak, which I still think about years later.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Spellcheck

    I thought I was reading a book about Oppenheimer, but Hall takes us into the lives of 7 different characters who only have cursory interactions with him. It was rather like reading 7 virtually unrelated short stories. I had hoped Hall would explore, in depth, Oppenheimer’s feelings about the bomb. That’s not what she did. While her writing was of a high caliber, I did not enjoy the end product.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I really liked this book’s structure...a handful of testimonials by invented characters whose lives intersected with Oppenheimer. Each story unfolds in a way that captures and holds your attention. However I found the last chapter a tough slog. The author tackles perhaps too many really profound questions here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tim Strotman

    An interesting take on Robert Oppenheimer, through the eyes of 7 acquaintances over the years. The underlying theme is honesty, both personal and public. I found the final chapter less involving than the others.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    This started out good, but degenerated as it went -- the last chapter was simply atrocious: way too long, and utterly departed from reality -- totally mystified by the glowing review that made me buy this.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Couldn’t get into this book- great discussion at book club with half loving the way it was written and half of us not loving it. Snapshots of Oppenheimer... kaleidoscope style of writing... hard to pick up put down...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

    I liked this book. Oppenheimer was a clearly complex man, who had various stages in his life confronted sharp moral dilemmas. Hall's approach to discussing him was from the viewpoint of 8 very different people who's lives intersected with his. A creative, well handled approach.

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