Saturday, December 24, 2016

REVIEW: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein
by Marie Benedict

Publisher: SourceBooks Landmark
Page Count: 304
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Format: Kindle

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: obscure historical female figure via TV show, Legends of Tomorrow


From GoodReads:

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.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I was inspired to start this book from an episode of Legends of Tomorrow where Mileva plays a central role. I had never heard of this woman before and was fascinated to learn that she might have played such a central role in Einstein's theories and fame. Books about obscure historical figures, especially female ones, always interest me. I was excited to start this one.

The heart of this novel is this amazing woman who had so much potential yet got lost to history. I feel she's a prime example of how women have gotten lost in the shuffle of possible famous historical figures, smothered in the achievements of the men in their lives. She had so much to give and unfortunately was not given the credit she was due.

Yet part of the problem I feel was her. I don't know if historically her personality had any basis in fact. However as portrayed in this work, I can see why history forgot her. She started out strong, with dreams as large as the world and the guts to pursue those dreams with all of her being. She faced down family condemnation, societal blocks, and physical limitations to pursue a degree and a dream of making a name for herself in the intellectual world.

Once she hooked up with Albert romantically however, it seems like her dreams, personality, and needs became subsumed by his. It didn't happen all at once but gradually. By the time we approached the end of the book, she finally drew the line in the sand and struck out on her own.

However, the journey to that decision was painful. I watched this woman I had grown to admire make herself subservient and a second-class citizen to her own husband. She put his needs above her own so many times that she lost track of what she actually wanted. She put her trust in him again and again, never learning the lesson once he betrayed her over and over. At least by the end, she found her spine and stood up to Albert once his demands reached a certain unbelievable level. By the books send, I admired her again.

Now Albert... that's a figure that's interesting in this book, whether it's in the fashion of an admirable figure in science or a douche bag on the level of Hitler is up to the individual reader. If even a quarter of what he did in this book really happened, I have to question the level of admiration given to him by history.

I do know for a fact that the list presented to Mileva at the end of the book did happen; that alone makes me distain him as a human being. But throughout the entire book he treats Mileva horribly. He steals her ideas, cheats on her, physically and emotionally abuses her, and threaten the lives of her and his children for his ego. At least I can say the author shows her skill at characterization by making such an icon of scientific history so ultimately flawed as a human.

I think that’s what can be taken away from this book and what makes it such a gem. The author’s skill at making her characters so flawed and unlikable yet making us root for them all the same takes serious characterization chops. Even though I hate Albert as a person, his brilliance and charisma still stand out. And Mileva… the crap that woman went through, partly what she allowed herself to go through, shaped her into a person that at the end I could admire and root for. The character journeys portrayed in this book are its heart and soul.

To me, this book was about Mileva as a person and historical figure. I feel the world lost out on a treasure once she hooked up with Mr. Douche-bag. The author takes the reader on emotional character journeys that leave you gasping and heart-wrenched. Whether you grow to love or hate Mileva and Albert, at least through this work, they still touch you in a deeply emotional way, right to your soul. I highly recommend this work to anyone looking for an incredible character journey or who enjoy obscure historical figures.

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