May 18, 2014: Shirley and Patricia at One Eagle Hill, Kensington, California—the storied home of Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer before and after World War II. The occasion was a Sunday afternoon event hosted by Kristin Linsley Myles, current owner of the historic home. (image pending)
An Atomic Love Story was a finalist in the Northern California Book Awards in the General Non-Fiction category.
An Atomic Love Story is also one of the ‘Top 13 Bay Area Books of 2013’ on San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times book reviewer Georgia Rowe’s list. (View Article)
The logic would seem irrefutable: The atomic age made modern New Mexico; Robert Oppenheimer was the man most responsible for making the atomic bomb; three women in his life helped shape the man; these women are important for us today to understand.
This logic led me to An Atomic Love Story: The Extraordinary Women in Robert Oppenheimer’s Life by Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus …
.Oppenheimer’s women were nearly as complicated as he was. All were people of high attainments and great ambition, especially notable in an age when the world belonged to men; all were many-layered and tortured.
…The book is a significant contribution to the peculiar field of women’s studies, which often perforce focuses less on women who changed the world than on women who changed men who changed the world, as is the case here—“women who are ancillary to the main attraction,” as the authors put it. Because of the nature of the subject, such books tend to focus on relationships, on love and sex and what these twinned passions do to and for those involved. Such is especially the case with “Atomic Love Story.”
…For the most part, [Ray] Monk’s “Robert Oppenheimer” neglects any discussion of the women in Oppie’s life, a gap that “An Atomic Love Story” fills. Interwoven with a sketchy account of Oppenheimer’s career, it offers intersecting (and often fascinating) portraits of Jean Tatlock, a troubled psychiatrist whom he had hoped to marry; his wife, the former Katherine “Kitty” Puening, and his friend and possible lover, psychologist Ruth Sherman Tolman.
San Jose Mercury News: “A deft blend of politics, passion and historical upheaval, it’s a fresh look at one of the most written-about scientists of the 20th century and the female trinity central to his life and work.”
From a 1998 article titled “M.F.K. Fisher’s Last House” in Preservation Magazine ( The National Trust for Historic Preservation): An Atomic Love Story author Shirley Streshinsky wrote this about her afternoons spent with the great food writer M.F.K (Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher in her house in Sonoma County, California:
“We talked of books and writers and people we found fascinating. One afternoon I mentioned my interest in Robert Oppenheimer, who had led the wartime Los Alamos team that built the atom bomb. Mary Frances had seen him in a San Francisco restaurant once and said he emitted an electric, sexual energy.”
LOVE IN THE AGE OF THE ATOM
The Story begins: “After Hiroshima and Nagasaki; after Robert Oppenheimer had been splashed on Time magazine’s cover as the Father of the Atom Bomb; after being excoriated during the McCarthy era as a Communist dupe and probable traitor, humiliated by a bogus hearing, then resurrected by a government attempting to find its conscience, J. Robert Oppenheimer, an elegant puzzle of a man, was left to the historians.”
Historian Patricia Klaus and writer Shirley Streshinsky set out to discover a missing part of that puzzle by exploring the lives of three women Robert Oppenheimer loved deeply in his lifetime.
EARLY PRAISE FOR AN ATOMIC LOVE STORY
“It is impossible to see Robert Oppenheimer whole without understanding the three great loves of his life. A closed book to most of the world, he opened himself to these three women, showing them the depth and intensity of his longing for the intimacies of the spirit as well as those of the flesh. An Atomic Love Story gives us the missing piece of the man.”
-Patricia O’Toole, author of The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends and When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House.
“Through diligent research, brilliant insights and clear, incisive writing, Streshinsky and Klaus have deepened our understanding of Robert Oppenheimer’s emotional life and loves. To comprehend his fascinating complexity, readers interested in the 20th century’s most intriguing American scientist must now supplement the many biographical Oppenheimer tomes with this marvelous concise and precise book. Anyone with the slightest interest in Oppenheimer’s biography will not be able to put it down.”
–Martin J. Sherwin (Pulitzer Prize winner for Biography with Kai Bird for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer)
“…. A whole new range of Robert Oppenheimer’s life emerges, a deeper and richer view of one of the pivotal figures of the 20th century”
–Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb