Monday, May 15, 2017

ARC Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Pub. Date:Oct. 18, 2016
Length:304 pages

Sadly, this is one of my blogger shame books - a review copy that I received last year, but that fell through the cracks and didn't make it onto the blog. I'm glad that I have finally worked it into the schedule, because I enjoyed it a great deal. Marie Benedict brought the history of the Einsteins to life in a meld of fact and fiction that captivated me from beginning to end.

Admittedly, I feel like I know very little about Albert Einstein. Other than crazy hair and the theory of relativity, very little about him stuck with me from what little we were taught in school. That could be due to the fact that I was not particularly interested in math or science (that's why I became a lawyer), so my curriculum in school just didn't touch on his life and accomplishments. That being said, from what little I was taught, I know that neither of his wives were mentioned. 

This is the story of Einstein's first wife, Mileva "Mitza" Maric, who was, by all accounts, a brilliant physicist and mathematician in her own right. Mitza and Albert met at the Polytechnic, where Mitza was the only female student in the physics/mathematics studies. This was during the time when it was very rare and very difficult for a female to attend any form of advanced education, and she was looked down upon by society and her male peers for even attempting the feat. 

What follows is an account of Mitza's life, love, marriage and heartbreak (both factual and fictional) that will draw you in and have you fighting mad on her behalf. I was totally sucked into her character and had a great emotional connection... and I hated Albert by the time the story was over. I admired her tenacity and ambition while she was in school, and felt indignant on her behalf throughout half of the book. I wanted her to stand up and take her life back - but that was something very difficult for a woman to do 100 years ago. Mitza's story highlights how far womens' fight for equality has come over the last century, and just how difficult our situation was historically.

While Mitza's contribution to Albert's work is still a matter of speculation, other aspects of their story have been verified including the illegitimate child, infidelity, and Albert's poor treatment of Mila during the latter part of their marriage. It really made me see Albert Einstein in a different light. He may have been a genius, but that doesn't mean he was without flaws - very serious ones. I wish we knew more about Mitza's contribution to his work so that if she is, in fact, due some credit for his achievements, she could receive posthumous honors.

I recommend this book to all women, no matter where you may fall on the feminist spectrum. It definitely made me more appreciative of the rights and opportunities that we have today, and provided a better understanding of the limitations women had (particularly in academia) in the past. I would love to see this author write something about Madam Curie, who had a cameo in this book.

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Sourcebooks.