Another Forgotten Wife

Title: The Other Einstein by Marie BenedictPublisher: Sourcebook Landmarks (Oct 2016), 304 pp

Genre: fiction, historical fiction

3 to 3.5 stars

Author:  From her bio “Once a New York City lawyer, Marie Benedict had long dreamed about a fantastical job unraveling the larger mysteries of the past as an archaeologist or historian — before she tried her hand at writing. While drafting her first book, she realized that she could excavate the possible truths lurking in history through fiction, and has done so in THE OTHER EINSTEIN, the story of Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s first wife and a physicist herself. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also authored The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare. She is a graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law, and lives in Pittsburgh with her family.”

Story line:  

This is a novel about Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva (Mitzi) Maric (1875-1948). She was born into a wealthy Serbian family and was extraordinarily talented in physics and mathematics; she attended all boys schools and programs where women were restricted, excluded) encouraged by her father. Einstein, a socially awkward geek promised her equality and seduced her. After their first child dies, he marries her (1903). His ‘miracle’ year was 1905 when he produced several papers he had been developing. Let’s just categorically state no man/woman works in isolation and several of his theories depend on brilliant mathematics (her forte). Two children later he starts an affair with his first cousin Elsa (marrying her (1914) as soon as the divorce was finalized, 5 years after separation). Yes Einstein appears to be something of a scoundrel, born up in several other accounts, but I was more astonished at the transformation of the brilliant mind with the potentially astounding career into a meek housewife. Moral of the story? Don’t get pregnant until you are well into your career. I have taught classes on women in science, and she has been an example (her test papers are brilliant). There is not a lot of science here, indeed, it almost is a romance novel. I enjoyed her friends and her initial outlook. The rigors of social and intellectual society were detailed and contrasted, with most women frustratingly dependent on beauty standards and husband potential. And while it was interesting and thought provoking, I thought there was too much artistic license. It is a slow paced ambitious story with reasonable characterization; It serves to remind women what is still at stake in today’s society. It left me depressed.
Quotes:

Turn the knob and push the door open, I told myself. You can do this. Crossing this threshold is nothing new. You have passed over the supposedly insurmountable divide between male and female in countless classrooms.

“Be bold,” Papa would whisper in our native, little-used Serbian tongue. “You are a mudra glava. A wise one. In your heart beats the blood of bandits, our brigand Slavic ancestors who used any means to get their due. Go get your due, Mitza. Go get your due.”

Was he truly so self-focused that he believed I withdrew my affections first? That my self-protection and the recent strengthening of my resolve happened before he cheated on me and bled me dry of my scientific ambitions?

Since he’d unilaterally removed my name from those papers, thereby putting the actual award out of my reach, the least I deserved was the money. 

As I took on the roles of his lover, the mother of his children, his wife, and his secret scientific partner, I allowed him to trim away all the parts that didn’t fit his mold.

I have reclaimed my intellect and my scientific passion by tutoring promising young female scientists.

Read on:

Nonfiction: Albert Einstein/Mileva Marić: The Love Letters, edited by Jürgen Renn and Robert Schulmann; Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance by Dennis Overbye; In Albert’s Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Marić, Einstein’s First Wife, by Milan Popovic; Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson; and Einstein’s Wife: Work and Marriage in the Lives of Five Great TwentiethCentury Women, by Andrea Gabor. 

Memoir: Jane Hawkins Traveling to Infinity

Fiction: Paula McLain The Paris Wife, Lynn Cullen Mrs Poe


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

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Spooky Books

Title: The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal
Publisher: Bantam, 386 pp October 4, 2016 

Genre: mystery, cozy, English historical, WWII fiction, series

4+ stars

Author: MacNeal is the NYTimes best selling author of the Maggie Hope (#6) series. Her novels have been nominated for many awards, with her first, Mr Churchill’s Secretary winning the Barry award. Her first job was assistant to novelist John Irving, she graduated cum laude and with departmental honors from Wellesley College, cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her stories are well researched, which rich historical detail. There is significant character development between books, although it seems each ends where the next begins. I enjoy reading about strong, independent, capable women and Maggie makes a fascinating seasoned spy/special agent. Her exploits vividly portray the blackout, terror, everyday life of war torn London.

Story line: We have another chapter in Maggie Hope’s wartime experiences, this one darker than most. It also represents a dark time, especially to the reader who knows three more bleak years are ahead. And darker still with the blatant rampant sexism which still exists today. There are several story lines, involving characters from previous books, so it is useful to read them in order. Primarily, Maggie is to aid DCI Durgin of Scotland Yard in tracking down a serial killer, a copycat Jack the Ripper (look up the Blackout Beast). The victims include many of the women Maggie has trained to become agents, so the hunt becomes very personal and potentially very dangerous. It is a quick intriguing read, one that is thought provoking and informative. I look forward to Maggie rescuing her half sister in Paris.

Quotes:

Something was wrong. Maggie Hope was sure, but she couldn’t yet put her finger on it…

Maggie was working as a girl Friday in a dim reception room at 64 Baker Street, one of the Special Operations Executive’s offices.

Only twenty-seven, Maggie had already performed any number of missions as an agent for SOE, but had taken a desk job in London while she was waiting for the arrival of her German half sister, Elise Hess, a Resistance worker in Berlin.

After all, she’d been secretary to the P.M. himself—as well as saving the life of the Princess Elizabeth, parachuting into Nazi Berlin, teaching at a paramilitary camp, and keeping the First Lady of the United States of America safe from scandal. How hard could managing an office be? And it was only temporary, until her half sister arrived in London and settled in.

When she’d arrived in London from Boston, four years ago, all she’d wanted to do was settle her grandmother’s estate, then return to the United States to pursue doctoral studies in mathematics at MIT, one of the few top universities to allow women as graduate students.

“It’s like … an accident of number theory. With enough data points, patterns will emerge that point to the place where the murders took place.”

“Are ye daft, woman?” Durgin exploded. “That’s the looniest idea I’ve ever heard of! We don’t use humans as live bait! This isn’t some Highland huntin’ party!”

I can’t fight everything, Maggie realized. But I can do some things. And those I’ll do to the best of my ability and strength.

Read on:

Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series

Nicola Upson Josephine Tey series

Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness series

Emma Jameson Marriage can be Murder

I intend to look up Sarah Sundin who evidently also writes WWII novels. MacNeal also has an excellent bibliography at the end of this book.  

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. The series available from Rochester Public Library.

The Butler Did It!- Again!

Title: Judgment of Murder by CS ChallinorPublisher: Midnight Ink Nov 2016

Genre: cozy, mystery, English historical, British mystery, Scottish barrister, 

4+ stars

It’s the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christies first published novel and cozies are all the rage again. They provide good reading and are multi-layered nuanced entertainment. The Solution depends on observation not technology and there is little graphic violence or sex.

Author:

Challinor was born in the US, educated in Scotland and England (joint Hons in Latin, French) and currently lives in Florida. She also holds a diploma in Russian from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. Challinor is a member of the Authors Guild, New York, and writes the critically acclaimed Rex Graves mystery series featuring the Scottish barrister-sleuth. The cozy series begins with: Christmas is Murder (September 2008, Midnight Ink Books, a Kindle best seller), and continues with Murder in the Raw (2009), Phi Beta Murder (2010), Murder on the Moor (2011), Murder of the Bride (2012, a Mystery Guild book club pick), Murder at the Dolphin Inn (2013) Murder at Midnight (2014) and Murder comes Calling (2015). I particularly appreciate the understated humour and banter between Rex and and his fiancé Helen d’Arcy (schoolteacher) and have enjoyed the series more with each new book. Challinor keeps most readers guessing as she cleverly spreads suspicion and clues and red herrings. Cozy fans will enjoy this traditional series featuring a witty, charming and engaging sleuth. Her light touch makes them entertaining reads, perfect for cold winter nights. JoM will make a lovely Christmas gift.

Story Line:

An old colleague Lord Gordon Murgatroyd, the infamous Judge Murder, dies in England, but his daughter Phoebe, newly widowed, suspects foul play. Rex Graves QC develops his prosecutorial expertise to sleuth his way through possible method and probable motive and near death. His trusty likable colleague Alistair helps investigate and even saves Rex at one point. Both are caught up in another regional case with abducted girl(s), linking cold cases, murderers and suspects. Rex does like to announce the murderer in a denouement, continuing the Golden Age style. Challinor’s mysteries are a welcome and charming modern take on Agatha Christie. I felt this one was more multilayered although they remain descriptive stories. Reading enjoyment may benefit from knowledge of previous cases and character development. 

Read On:

Anne Cleeland (Shetland), Deborah Crombie, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, MC Beaton (Hamish McBeth), Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness), Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby), Alexander McCall Smith (Sunday Philosophy Club), Paige Shelton  (Scottish bookshop), Sophie Hannah (Poirot)

Quotes:

The golf could wait. Murder could not.

In the event he was on a wild goose chase, he thought he might as well do some sightseeing and make the most of his sabotaged weekend.

Miss Bird had been their housekeeper since he was a boy, and she and his mother persisted in calling him by his given name, instead of its derivative “Rex,” which he preferred. Now that they were well into their eighties he had lost all hope of their changing the habit.

She spoke in the genteel tones of Morningside ladies, which Rex often thought belied a razor sharp mind that had lost none of its acuity in her advancing age.

“Well, I wish you’d just hurry up and marry the woman. You know how I love weddings.” Rex gazed at his friend in mild frustration.

I’m aboot as lethal as one of these chips.” 

Rex commended his friend’s foresight, without fully comprehending how he had been able to run with a crowbar secreted in his coat, but now wasn’t the time to ask.”

“Your mother must be so proud of you, as am I. I suppose you could go about incognito but you’re a hard person to disguise.”

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Most in the series available from Rochester Public Library.

It’s a New Book

It’s a new book if you haven’t read it!Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find. 

 Title:  Throne of Darkness by Douglas Nicholas

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Emily Bester Books. 327 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, medieval England, English historical, series

4.5 stars

Storyline:

Douglas Nicholas is an award winning poet as well as the author of this outstanding medieval series which began with Something Red. I discovered him several years ago and was lucky to read the first two, plus e-novella The Demon back to back. I eagerly awaited the third installment but life intervened. When I rolled into Rochester Sunday my first stop was the library because I had checked their website and this book was on the shelf! I would have purchased it, indeed I would like the series, but they are hard to find. This author deserves a much wider audience. I am reminded of what a great library we have here.

We are now in 1215 northern England with the established characters of Irish queen Maeve (Molly when in English soil), Jack her lover/protector/ warrior, her gifted granddaughter Neiman and her husband Hob (Robert of England). They use the guise of traveling musicians/healers as they journey through the countryside garnering allies while tackling fantastical, supernatural beasts. This time King John is coordinating an attack on his rebellious knights and barons with an African sorcerer and the Cousins, blacksmiths who can become savage hyenas. Seemingly impossible odds.

The accurate historical detail and rich evocative prose make this a fascinating, spellbinding tale. Others have considered this a coming of age novel (Hob’s story) while some say it is Harry Potter for adults. I find each thread compelling and equally important. Each novel is a complete story but again I feel reading them in order is best for the developing characterization. I find it amazing to be so easily transported back to this time period. It is a brilliant, profound adventure fantasy. Even better the next in the series Three Queens in Erin is expected March 2017. My only worry is it will be the end of the series.

Read on:

Dave Duncan’s The King’s Blades, The King’s Daggers

Tim Powers The Drawing of the Dark and early novels

GRR Martin The Game of Thrones

Ancient Forests

Title: The Trees by Ali ShawPublisher: Bloomsbury 2016 496pp

Genre: fantasy, dystopian, fiction, English literature,

4.5+ stars

Author:

Ali Shaw graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English literature. He has worked as a bookseller and at the Bodleian library, Oxford. His first book The Girl With the Glass Feet won the Desmond Elliott Prize and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel and longlisted for the Guardian First Novel.

Story line:

When a review says: The Trees does for trees what Hitchcock did for birds. You’ve been warned. (Irish Times) you are compelled to read this. Especially if the author is Shaw. His writing is amazing, evocative, enthralling and quite unsettling at times. The rich poetic descriptions reveal a multilayered story with self discovery, friendships, survival, justice, folklore and fairytale fantastical elements. The magic is both light and dark. I loved his surprising first book, The Girl with Glass Feet. Shaw’s books deserve a much wider audience for the clever mastery of language alone. Add the original characters and you have yourself a new author to follow.

What would you do if giant ancient forests were created overnight, destroying civilization as you know it? How would you adapt? This book is quite thought provoking, as well as haunting. I found the questions of what is wild, and how do humans relate to and abuse the environment even more important to have recognized and discussed now. There is great character development in these unlikely protagonists as they go in search of their loved ones and learn to cope with the new normal. Their actions have consequences, but we find hope in the strangest places. And the journey is ultimately what is important. It’s rather epic. I loved that the forester was going to have all the answers. 

Highly recommend. This book will remain long after you finish, and also make for an interesting book club discussion.

Read On:

Of Bees and Mist (Erick Setiawan), The Winter’s Tale(Mark Helprin), Perdita (Hilary Scharper), The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), Gossip from the Forest (Sara Maitland), Uprooted (Naomi Novik) or if you like Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire

Quotes:

The forest burst full-grown out of the earth, in booming upper-cuts of trees and bludgeoning branches. It rammed through roads and houses alike, shattering bricks and exploding glass. It sounded like a thousand trains derailing at once, squeallings and jarrings and bucklings all lost beneath the thunderclaps of broken concrete and the cacophony of a billion hissing leaves. Up surged the tree trunks, up in a storm of foliage and lashing twigs that spread and spread and then, at a great height, stopped.

In a blink of an eye, the world had changed, There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly chinking shower of rubbled cement. Branches stilled amid the wreckage they had made. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, a suburb had lain, there was no only woodland standing among ruins ….”

Received as an ARC ebook from NetGalley, thank you!