Ann and Ben are a typical American couple living in 2003.
She works as a librarian whilst he is a landscape gardener.
In their eyes their marriage has reached a stage of stability,
though they remain oblivious to the fact that it is synonymous
with stagnation as they coast through their relationship having
lost meaning and purpose. The situation changes when on the
sixteenth of July nineteen forty-five The Manhattan Project
successfully detonates the first atomic bomb and three of
the scientists, Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard and Enrico
Fermi become unstuck in time and find themselves in the twenty-first
century. Rescued by Ann, the trio are discovered by a fundamentalist
millionaire and a race ensues to decide the fate of nuclear
proliferation and the destiny of man...
Pure and Radiant Heart is the new novel by Lydia Millet
whose previously published novels were Omnivores, My
Happy Life and Everyone's Pretty. The novel itself
is an interesting and eclectic mix of the terrifying and the
the book examines a number of different yet interconnecting
ideas, the central of which is the scientist's reaction to
the world they helped create. They are at times justifiably
horrified at not only the effects of their creations on the
population of Japan, but also the crass debasement of culture
and gentility which seems to have been swept away by the horrific
tides of the Second World War. This might give the incorrect
impression that this is a bleak book, which is far from the
truth. The book is threaded through with a rich vein of dark
humour and whilst Millet's depiction of many of the cultural
sub-groups might seem to skirt the precipitous edge of caricature,
they remain grounded enough for the reader to recognise the
type and to find amusement in their inherent absurdities.
The book examines many of the characters search for truth
and likewise Millet's search for the truth about the bomb.
The book is written in short sections, alternating between
the dramatic narrative, a history of the bomb and its relevance
in today's society and Millet's often short but poignant insights
to our relationship with this weapon of mass destruction.
Like Joseph Heller, Millet seems to see straight to the heart
of the absurdities of modern life, from the collective cultural
amnesia about the bomb to the extremes to which fanatics will
go to project and protect their beliefs.
the book having so much to say and examine, the elements,
which look at the historical relevance of the bomb, can sometimes
slow the narrative down - indeed the whole book has a kind
of slow dreamlike quality about it, like a car crash in slow
motion. The ending, when it comes, comes as no surprise given
the situation set up by Millet.
is her first cross genre novel and its execution was better
than I could have hoped for. At a first glance the idea of
putting science fiction, religion, politics and the bomb all
in one book doesn't sound like a winner. Millet has pulled
it off with full aplomb and should be able to extend her reach
into audiences, which hitherto may not have been aware of
book is a serious and amusing work for our scary new age,
which will illuminate and entertain in equal measure.
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