STARRED REVIEW
September 2020

Atomic Love

By Jennie Fields
Inspired by such female scientists as physicist Leona Woods and the author’s own mother, Atomic Love is as much about undercover work as it is about women’s passions.
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Jennie Fields’ Atomic Love scrupulously captures both the minute (you might say “atomic”) and panoramic elements of the early Cold War. At ground zero: a female physicist, an FBI agent and a possible spy. Each has been broken, physically, emotionally or both, by World War II. They form a triangle, which brings to mind the symbol of a fallout shelter.

Rosalind was the lone woman on the University of Chicago team that constructed the first controlled nuclear reaction, but in 1950, she’s unhappily selling jewelry at a department store. During her wartime service, she fell hard for Weaver, a British team member who awakened her sexually and then dumped her. As the novel begins, Weaver, “the cartoon of a good-looking man” with a “dimpled Cary Grant chin,” injects himself back into Rosalind’s life. FBI agent Charlie suspects Weaver of selling secrets to the Soviets, and he enlists Rosalind’s help to unmask her former lover. 

Surely among the most patient FBI agents in recent fiction, Charlie is a complex character who has repressed most feelings, though he feels a strong attraction to Rosalind. Tortured as a prisoner of war, Charlie was left with one hand so disabled that someone else must help knot his tie. When Rosalind tends to his tie, it is an intimate gesture.

In Rosalind, Fields has created an anxious yet gutsy heroine who carries her Shakespearian name with aplomb. Growing up, science was her religion, yet she is horror stricken at the destructive power of the atom bomb she helped unleash. Inspired by such female scientists as physicist Leona Woods and the author’s own mother, Atomic Love is as much about undercover work as it is about women’s passions.

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Atomic Love

Atomic Love

By Jennie Fields
Putnam
ISBN 9780593085332

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