My God, What Have We Done by Susan V. Weiss

There are certain things that you learn about a blogger the longer you read their reviews. I hope you know, for instance, that I don’t mind not finishing a book. I don’t mind discarding a book if it’s not keeping my attention, but it’s a lot harder to justify doing that for a blog tour. So I tried. I really tried very hard to finish My God, What Have We Done, but I just got to the point where I realized that I was spending so much of time convincing myself to read the book, convincing myself to just pick it up and read. It just wasn’t worth it after a while. I read almost 200 pages and I just don’t think my reaction would be any different after nearly 500. Frankly, as soon as I made the decision not to finish the book, I felt relieved.

I think where My God, What Have We Done failed was twofold. First, the connection with Oppenheimer and the Manhattan project would have been as poignant without the unnecessary sections that tried to detail Oppenheimer’s life. Unfortunately those sections were dry and, beyond not holding my attention, were also unbelievable. I’m sure Weiss did a significant amount of research, but I just couldn’t find it in myself to believe the way she told the story. I could turn to any of these pages and point to woody dialogue, awkward phrasing, characters that simply didn’t feel real.

I’ve been reading the reviews of this one on the tour to see if other bloggers felt similarly. I was especially interested in Steph’s review, in which she expressed extreme dislike for Pauline. And while I have to agree that I didn’t necessarily like Pauline, I actually enjoyed reading about her. Especially after the birth of Jasper, I thought Weiss hit her stride describing the life and attitude of Pauline as a mother. If this had been the tone of the entire novel, I certainly would have kept reading, even though the sections with Pauline as a narrator were not without fault. The nonlinear timing of the story could have been a useful storytelling tactic, but instead felt gimmicky and confusing. Pauline is a frustrating narrator, but at least she is consistent and most of all, I believed in her and her voice. Like Steph, I found myself skipping over the sections that described Oppenheimer and his life almost completely. I would skim here and there for important information, but I wouldn’t spend too much time on them.

I hate to not finish a book for a tour, but I don’t think reading the last 300 pages of this one would have given me any different a perspective than the first 200. Pauline’s obsession with Oppenheimer was interesting, but I think, in the end, her point is obvious and a little heavy handed. But Pauline is the kind of person who would love a heavy handed metaphor, so maybe it works.

Thank you TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to review. You can find out more about the tour, including past and future tour stops, here


7 thoughts on “My God, What Have We Done by Susan V. Weiss

  1. One reason why I’ve become very choosy when it comes to ARC’s these days. I don’t think I would take a novel that’s 500 plus pages. Too risky. I’m currently 3/4 of the way through an ARC that is good, but just not compelling me to finish it. I’ll probably get my review up the first week in November.

    That may be one reason why Book Tours are better than more random ARC’s–they have a deadline.

  2. Well, I admire your perseverance in getting through 200 pages of this book, because I stopped somewhere around 70 or so and never looked back! I had the best of intentions going into this one, but it just didn’t work for me. (And I will say that it’s not just that I didn’t like Pauline which made me stop reading! I have read plenty of books with unlikeable protagonists, and I admit, after the first Oppenheimer section, getting back to Pauline was great… I just also didn’t like the writing, and so that coupled with disliking Pauline made me think that this book wasn’t going to be a good use of my time and I’d be much happier reading something else!)

  3. I’m glad that you gave this one a fair chance! It’s interesting that you connected with Pauline – you’re right that some of the other reviewers felt different about her. It’s funny how one book can strike people in such varied ways.

    I’m sorry this one didn’t work out for you but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts for the tour,

  4. This book tour has been quite an experience for me. Some reviewers, like yourself, did not like my novel at all. At least as many enjoyed and recommended it. I’d like readers to know that.
    Thanks for your participation.

  5. Sometimes characters I don’t like at all are the most interesting to read about because there is always the question of “What will they do next?” It seems like that wasn’t enough here though. At least you gave the book a fair shot!

  6. Funny, though unconventional in many ways, I actually would have described, My God, What Have We Done? , a page turner. it did, I will admit, it did take me a few chapters to “get into it,” but I found that my initial perservenece to be richly rewarded. Contrary to Steph, I found the writing style to be poetic and fluid, and that the details enhanced my experience, both in the Oppenheimer and in the Pauline narratives, rather than serving as a distraction, as you seemed to feel, Lu.

    I found the main characters, Clifford and Pauline, to be quirky but both believable and empathetic, and the nuclear bomb thread to be a beautiful and clever counter-point. I really liked the honesty in Weiss’s portrayal of marriage- for most of us, it is not storybook romances or tales of passion, though we all certainly hope for those moments. More often, I think marriage is about just getting through the day. And, I felt that the connection to the nuclear bomb added gravity to the mundanity of an average marriage, which in turn, adds gravity to the mundane lives of us all. Anyways, I highly recommend this book.

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