About the Book
Chicago,1950. Rosalind Porter has always defied expectations—in her work as a physicist on the Manhattan Project to design the atomic bomb, and in her passionate love affair with coworker Thomas Wheeler. Five years after the end of both, her guilt over the results of her work and her heartbreak over Wheeler are intertwined. She has almost succeeded in resigning herself to a more conventional life.
Then Wheeler gets back in touch—and so does the FBI. Agent Charlie Szydlo wants Roz to spy on Wheeler, whom the FBI suspects of selling nuclear secrets to Russia. Despite her better instincts, Roz still loves Wheeler and is not sure she can trust Charlie. And Charlie, whose time as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp haunts him, is not sure he can trust himself, especially around Roz. His interest in her has become more than professional.
As it turns out, he’s not the only spy interested in Roz—but the Russians definitely don’t have her best interests in mind.
What I thought
Firstly thank you to Sophie Shaw of Penguin Michael Joseph for her invitation to read this book via Netgalley. Love it when book publishers think you might like a book. They know us readers so well, it was brill.
I’m not going to go too much into what the book is about as I think the blurb above tells you all you need to know before reading. For me books surrounding WW2 have perhaps been a little overdone now? And I feel you end up reading just another variation on a somewhat saturated theme. But this is post-war, 1950’s America. Something different that hasn’t been written about quite so much and I found that refreshing.
The story surrounds Rosalind Porter a physicist who was involved in the Manhattan Project. I’ll be honest I have never heard of the Manhattan Project and most of the way through the book I just thought it was fictional. It was only when reading others’ reviews of the book that I realised this was a real thing, and Googled it to find out more. The Manhattan Project was an R & D project which developed the atom bomb used in Hiroshima, Japan, towards the end of the second world war. It’s said that the bomb ended the war.
Rosalind’s interest lay in nuclear energy. It was never her intention to develop a bomb that would kill and maim thousands of people, and she finds it difficult to live with the guilt that she became a part of that in her career. Thanks in part to her ex boyfriend and lover Thomas Wheeler her career is over and five years later she now works on the sales counter of an antique jewellers.
Though in part this is a story of espionage and has elements of a thriller, it is in the main a love story. A story of divided loyalties. Whilst Wheeler may have been her greatest love, can she still trust him after the way he abandoned her with no explanation. Then there’s Charlie Szydlo the FBI agent who has asked her to spy on Wheeler and find out what information he may have passed to Russia. Wheeler may have betrayed Roz and lost her a promising career but does she now hate him enough to betray him or are her feelings for him being rekindled now he’s turned up and back in her life.
Threaded through the story is Roz’s relationship with her sister Louisa and her family. Even though Louisa and her husband brought up Roz and welcomed her into their family, her and her sister have never been close. There is also the backstory of Charlie Szydlo the FBI agent, previously a prisoner of war in Japan. He has a harrowing story to tell. As Roz becomes more involved with Charlie, she finds herself falling for his attentive and caring ways, something she never experienced with Wheeler.
So this is much more a story of people and their relationships with each other than a traditional spy thriller. I really enjoyed it. It’s something a little different and you’ll find yourself rooting for all the characters in the book. They all have a story to tell, deep sadness and regret, hurts that need to heal. You might even find yourself feeling just a little sorry for Thomas Wheeler – the villain of the piece? Or a misguided fool who has lived to regret his choices. I still couldn’t decide on that one, even at the end of the book.
It’s a compelling read and one which I happily give 5 stars to.
♥ Happy Reading ♥
Jennie Fields tells us a little about how she became a writer but more so I wanted to include all of her bio as she explains how she came to write this particular book which I found fascinating.
When I was child, bookstores and libraries were sanctuaries, my invitation to adventure, escape, satisfaction. Wanting to be a part of the action, I wrote my first ‘novel’ when I was six. Years later, my first real book arrived in bookstores.
But it’s taken me until my fifth novel to tackle a topic that’s always called to me: women in science. My mother was trained as a biochemist at the University of Chicago during World War II, and remained at the University afterwards, researching cures for cancer. But as was typical in that era, when she married, she gave up her career to be a wife. She spent the rest of her life aching for science. As a result, science flowed into her cooking, cleaning, our healthcare. She measured, she weighed, she considered, she hypothesized.
My mother’s best friend was her cousin Jean. Walking together to campus each day, they discussed everything. But no matter how many times she asked, Jean refused to tell my mother a single detail about what was going on at the ‘Metallurgical Laboratory’ where she worked. As it turns out, Jean was a clerical worker for the Manhattan Project and stayed true to her oath of secrecy until long after the atom bomb was dropped.
That story of silence stuck with me. And my research revealed there was one female physicist involved in those early Chicago years of the Manhattan Project: Leona Woods, the youngest member of the team. Atomic Love is in no way based on Woods’ life. Still, her presence at that critical time and place in history allowed me to create my main character, Rosalind Porter, a female physicist who is asked to risk love and limb to protect her country.
Adventure. Escape. Satisfaction. I hope you will find these things and more in Atomic Love.
Atomic Love is published today 17 September in e-book and hardback. Thank you to the publisher Michael Joseph books for an advance review copy via Netgalley.