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.
Marie Benedict’s The Other Einstein was a fascinating read, and one that is significantly adding to my TBR pile–with nonfiction, for a change! (Lots of great suggestions in the author’s note at the end–thanks, Ms. Benedict!)
The author freely admits that her book is a fictionalization of Mileva Maric Einstein’s life and that she makes use of much speculation (especially with regards to exactly how much of a contribution the first Mrs. Einstein made to her husband’s famous Theory of Relativity–I’d love to think that her version is the truth, but it’s probably a bit of a stretch and I doubt it could ever be proved), and as such I kind of hoped that Albert wasn’t as much of a, well, b@stard as he seems to be in the book. Though I can still hope that at least one pretty jarring scene is completely fictional, Princeton University has been kind enough to publish volumes of Einstein’s writings and correspondence and their English translations online, and I’ve now read the memorandum myself that made me gasp out loud when I read that part of the book (18 July 1014, Memorandum to Mileva Einstein-Maric, with comments in Volume 8–but don’t read it until after you’ve read the book!) and then the next few letters after that one, and…just whoa. I’m not sure I’ll ever hear the name “Albert Einstein” again and be able to think purely happy thoughts about him. How can a man be so scientifically brilliant and so spectacularly not brilliant in his personal life?
(Interesting side note from the letters, not the book, since Mileva wouldn’t have known this: Albert wouldn’t let his second wife/cousin(!) Elsa be there when he spent time with his sons from his first marriage, because “it is not right to have the children see their father with a woman other than their own mother” yet he had no such scruples about divorcee Elsa’s children from her first marriage spending time with their mother and a man who wasn’t their own father…double-standard much? Oh, and just to really make it next to impossible to look up to him as a father figure and husband–he apparently briefly considered proposing to Elsa’s 20-year-old daughter Ilsa instead… Yeah. He’s a prince among men. But a brilliant scientist.)
Though the story was a bit slow in parts, overall I quite enjoyed it. I look forward to both reading more about Mileva (and her children!) and more from Ms. Benedict in the future.
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.