In the vein of Coetzee’s Summertime or W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants, Trinity revisits the life of scientist Robert Oppenheimer as narrated by seven fictional characters who claim to have known him.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 INTERNATIONAL DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE
J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repeatedly lied about love affairs. And he defended the use of the atomic bomb he helped create, before ultimately lobbying against nuclear proliferation.
Through narratives that cross time and space, a set of characters bear witness to the life of Oppenheimer, from a secret service agent who tailed him in San Francisco, to the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, to a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women fall into the orbit of a brilliant but mercurial mind at work, all consider his complicated legacy while also uncovering deep and often unsettling truths about their own lives.
In this stunning, elliptical novel, Louisa Hall has crafted a breathtaking story about the power of the human mind to believe what it wants, about public and private tragedy, and about power and guilt. Blending science with literature and fiction with biography, Trinity asks searing questions about what it means to truly know someone, and about the secrets we keep from the world and from ourselves.
“Hall excels at creating distinct characters whose voices illuminate their own lives and challenges, as well as the historical period that saw Oppenheimer’s fall from grace. Taken together, they only burnish the endlessly fascinating enigma of the flawed genius who became known as the father of the atomic bomb.”
“Louisa Hall’s Trinity is an intelligent and sweeping account of the characters–some real, some fictional–swirling around the testing of the first atomic bomb. It is also an affecting meditation on the ways in which we betray others and, in the process, ourselves.”
—Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs
“With beautiful specificity and nuance, Hall interrogates such major issues as ethics in scientific discovery and breaching the chasm between public and private selves.”
—Vanity Fair, “This Fall’s Best Fiction”
“Trinity is a dizzying, kaleidoscopic marvel of a book, and a beautiful reflection on the impossibility of creating a truly accurate narrative of any one person’s life.”
“[Hall] explores themes of guilt and betrayal as well as the fallout from lies and self-delusion–in the process bringing Oppenheimer, an often aloof, conflicted man, to vivid life… Lushly written, this is an ambitious, unsettling novel that takes on big issues in a passionate, personal way.”