Trinity was the code name of the US project to create a weapon to end all wars, the atomic bomb. Behind that invention was a man who had to come to terms with what he had created, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Louisa Hall has chosen to create a portrait of Oppenheimer through the narratives of seven characters whose lives touched his at some point. These characters are fictional but weave together facts from the era to give a sense of who Oppenheimer was, as well as the sense of the time.

We tell our lives to other people like stories. We make characters out of ourselves. If we’re skilled, we make ourselves almost lifelike.

I thought this was an unusual approach which worked to varying degrees. There’s the FBI agent assigned to watch him, a WAF (Women in the Air Force) at the base in Alamo, a student who attends one of his lectures, acquaintances from his time on St Johns… It shows a man conflicted by pride in his scientific achievement, yet faced with the guilt of the destruction wrought on Japan. A man who was not always faithful, who was held practically hostage by his government, threatened with his links to communists.

I did zone out over the reporter’s account of her marriage. I wasn’t quite sure what this had to to with Oppenheimer, other than when she started the interview he reminded her of her husband. Maybe it was meant to represent Kitty or some other element of his life, I’m not sure. She talks of her husband’s betrayal like Oppenheimer’s betrayal by allowing the bomb to be used, which was a bit extreme. This meant it ended on a down note.

He said such boundaries were hypothetical in a day and age in which whole nations could be destroyed by one weapon. What about radiation? And what about fallout? Do they operate according to national boundaries?

I would say if you specifically wanted to learn more about the project or Oppenheimer, you’d be better off reading a biography. Trinity was interesting to read though, and if you like interconnected short stories, this might be your thing.

ATY: 10. A book featuring a historical figure

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s

Book Source: Purchased