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.”
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.
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.
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