– SPOILER FREE REVIEW –
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction
Release date: October 18th, 2016
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A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.
What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.
In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.
A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe,The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.
I’m grateful for this book because it introduced me to Mileva Marić, Albert Einstein’s first wife, who I didn’t know about before. This novel is a fictionalized account of Mileva’s struggles in life as a woman of science in a time when it was pretty much impossible for a woman to attend university and much less to persuit science. I think my expectations for this book let me enjoy it, as it is more a character study than a tale of scientific discoveries.
What I enjoyed the most about this book was definitely Mileva herself. I was intrigued by her. I loved her strength and her disposition. A lot the times, I didn’t agree with her, but I always understood her choices and that made me enjoy her as a character. She was rational and knew how to handle herself no matter her inner turmoil, but she was also sensible and made mistakes.
I wish there was more real information about her, because she was truly an impressive and accomplished woman who was torn between family life and science. That was the main theme of the novel. It went deep into Mileva’s growth and her struggles to fit family and science equally in her life. She was torn between the two because of the times and all the obstacles she had to face because of sexism and ableism, given that she had a limp.
I can see this book being controversial, but I think it’s important to take it with a grain of salt. The Other Einstein decides to focus on who Mileva was, her struggles, and how big her role could have been in the incredible scientific theories credited to Albert Einstein. For this reason, the author chose to paint Albert in a pretty bad light based on some pieces of their life together that were never quite explained. She fills in the blanks in a bittersweet way. I think his portrayal failed by being overtly negative without showing his reasons. So, not knowing Albert’s thinking behind many of his actions threw me off, but besides that, he was an interesting character. I don’t think the author did it to discredit Albert Einstein, but to show how women and their achievements have been erased or ignored in history.
Overall, it’s a great book with enjoyable writing. The focus was definitely Mileva’s struggles and achievements, rather than the science itself, which was introduced into the narrative in a very basic way. Ultimately, it makes you think twice about all the women that have been wronged in history for their success, but also about women who fought against the status quo and won.