THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE BY ELIZABETH J. CHURCH
PUBLISHED BY ALGONQUIN BOOKS
REVIEW BY JANE MOORE
I really enjoyed this book, despite the effort required getting through a slow and overly involved start. The author tries to pack A LOT of story into a relatively short novel. It made me cry a couple of times too, which is always a good indication I’ve been sucked in!
The story follows the life and loves of Meridian Wallace, an ornithology student, from WWII and all the way through to the 1970s. Meridian is an ambitious and successful student, but never fulfils her dream of studying at post-graduate level. She marries and moves to Los Alamos to be with her husband, who is working on the atomic bomb project. As her marriage falters and Meridian embarks on an affair with a much younger man, around her American society goes through a massive process of upheaval and change which Meridian struggles to keep up with.
The central focus is the changing role of women and their relationships throughout this post-war period. The pre-feminist women, who stayed at home and looked after their men, still contributed as much to the advancement of women as their daughters in the 1970s and beyond.
The author’s description of Meridian’s meeting with Clay, a rock-climbing university student and Vietnam veteran, and how she falls in immediate lust with him is visceral. The novel becomes much more interesting and emotionally intense after this meeting and it is worth hanging in there for this – I think I finished it in a day (with lots of tears) once they met.
Overall this is an enjoyable and relatively easy read… A good one for the summer holidays!
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.