Seeing Oppenheimer whole is as hard as it gets. Rabi thought the key was that Oppenheimer constantly worked to convince himself and others that he wasn’t really Jewish: it would have been better for him, the confidently Jewish Rabi said, “if he had studied the Talmud rather than Sanskrit … It would have given him a better sense of himself.” Monk agrees that Oppenheimer’s exquisite discomfort in his Jewish skin is a plausible solvent of the apparent tensions and contradictions, but he has several other candidates for seeing coherence. One is a less than whole-hearted suggestion that Hindu spirituality and metaphysics were serious bases for both scientific work and moral postures; another is a well-made case for the depth and pervasiveness of Oppenheimer’s patriotism, his “deep, and sometimes fierce, devotion to his country” – a patriotism which saw America as the unique place where Jews could be free, which informed Oppie’s attachment to communism conceived as a pure form of American egalitarianism, and which may have underpinned his ambivalent love-affair with the military. Monk’s master-story, however, has Oppenheimer striving always to move from the margins of any enterprise in which he was engaged towards somewhere “inside the centre”. But that’s the least persuasive strand in this otherwise superb biography: who doesn’t want to be somewhere near the centre of things?