... tightly focused ... The author is Lesley M. M. Blume, a tireless researcher and beautiful writer, who moves through her narrative with seeming effortlessness — a trick that belies the skill and hard labor required to produce such prose ... a warning without being a polemic ... a book of serious intent that is nonetheless pleasant to read. There are knowable reasons for this, including Blume’s flawless paragraphs; her clear narrative structure; her compelling stories, subplots and insights; her descriptions of two great magazine editors establishing the standards of integrity that continue at The New Yorker and other high-end magazines today; the oddball characters like General Groves who keep popping up; and most of all, the attractive qualities of her protagonist, John Hersey ... does suffer from two flaws. The first is the claim that the United States mounted an important cover-up to hide the realities of radiation sickness from public knowledge. Blume’s publisher chose to hype this claim in the subtitle — a mistake — and then, in a letter accompanying the advance proof, went so far as to describe the cover-up as the biggest of the century and a 'cloak and dagger tale.' It must be embarrassing for Blume. It’s obvious to anyone who has been around the U.S. Army that whatever ineffective obfuscation occurred during the months following the atomic bombings resulted from the same old stuff — a mixture of authentic ignorance, reflexive secrecy and incompetent military spin. The book’s second flaw is the unnecessary claim that Hersey’s work altered the course of history, changed attitudes toward the arms race, and has helped the world avoid nuclear war ever since. This is just silly, though there are indications that Hersey himself may have believed some of it in his old age. If so, given his contributions to humanity he may be excused. But what altered the course of history was the acquisition of nuclear weapons by countries other than the United States — particularly the Soviet Union in 1948 — and the certainty of retaliation should ever a nuclear weapon be used again ... But against the scale of the subject these are quibbles, and do not detract from the excellence of Blume’s work.
Blume condenses a lot of military, government, and behind the scenes news business history over this most momentous event in world history. It is a brilliantly conceived and impeccably researched book ... should sit next to it on the shelf as a testament of the courage of a free press to report the truth no matter who attempts to silence their mission.
Blume’s meticulously researched tale of the lengths to which a government will go to keep the truth from reaching its citizens might be exactly what everyone should be reading at this deeply worrisome juncture ... The book is timely on its own, however, as the idea that a democracy’s highest officials might use verbal sleights of hand to distract citizens from a crisis has been cropping up of late ... is at its most gripping when Blume describes the article’s immediate, dramatic impact on a public that had been kept in the dark about the human devastation in Hiroshima ... It’s clear that Blume poured herself into this project. For a sense of the sheer amount of work that went into it, just read her acknowledgments. Where most authors’ acknowledgments are heartfelt but brief, Blume’s run seven pages. Her endnotes take up a whopping 64 pages ... compelling.
As a history lover, I find that Fallout gives powerful insights into the way that a government can weave a story to justify the actions it takes, and also into the fearless reporting about what really happened in Hiroshima. Blume’s tireless reporting gives important context to an understudied slice of U.S. history.
Ms. Blume turns the writing of Hiroshima into the cliff-hanging saga of an intrepid young newsman outplaying his own government to get the facts ... For all the virtues of her narrative, Ms. Blume is guilty of the historian’s sin of 'presentism'—judging the actions of the past by the standards of today. Some may consider any use of nuclear weapons immoral, but ending the war without invading Japan was a compelling option for Truman and his military, whose first responsibility was the preservation of American lives.
Though the story of Fallout is rather slight—Hersey and his New Yorker editors faced little opposition and few consequences—it is engagingly told and painstakingly researched, with an unerring eye for the vivid detail that brings to life postwar society and the stakes of making the world understand the true horror of nuclear fallout. Blume’s history will remind readers of the vital role the fourth estate plays in upholding American ideals
... fascinating ... Blume skillfully relates the biography of the still young but already well-known Hersey; his remarkable collaboration with New Yorker editors Harold Ross and William Shawn; and Hersey’s inspiration for his decision to structure the article around six Hiroshima survivors ... Blume's narrative explaining how Hersey gained access to Hiroshima, despite obstacles raised by the U.S. military, never flags in its drama. The author also provides endlessly interesting anecdotes about the aftermath of the publication of Hiroshima, which eventually became a bestselling book ... Highly recommended as a work of historical excavation regarding a watershed publication.
... thrilling ... Blume builds tension by expertly interweaving scenes at the New Yorker offices, with Hersey’s journey into Japan and his search for survivors, and vividly captures a pre-television era when evidence of the nuclear fallout was suppressed by the U.S. government. This enthralling, fine-grained chronicle reveals what it takes to cut through 'dangerously anesthetizing' statistics and speak truth to power.