The Other Einstein
by Marie Benedict
Fascinating! I found the story of The Other Einstein to be a very different and fascinating reading experience: this historical novel is like none other I have read. The author, Marie Benedict, examines the facts that exist about Albert Einstein’s first wife, Maleva Marić, an outstanding physicist and mathematician in a time when women were rarely admitted to universities. Some speculate that her contributions to Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning theory of relativity may have been significant.
The book traces Maleva’s journey from Serbia to the Polytechnic campus in Zürich where, as a woman, she must struggle to be recognized as a serious and capable student. To that end she tries to maintain a collegial relationship with fellow student Albert Einstein who has more romantic inclinations. The author is able to weave a convincing tale of how this dedicated female student deviated from her professional goals as a result of various circumstances, including the death of their daughter born out of wedlock, Maleva’s physical health, her lack of acceptance (because of a physical disability, her intelligence, and her ethnicity) by many in society including Albert’s family, and the self-centered behaviors of Albert Einstein himself. Maleva struggles to be everything Einstein wants–totally devoted to his needs, the perfect housewife and mother, and a scientific collaborator. She finds the task impossible, especially in the face of Einstein’s professional and personal betrayals of her.
The Other Einstein ends with an epilogue which gives Maleva a chance to reflect upon her life and gives the reader a few details about her life after she and Einstein are divorced. The author adds an interesting and helpful section on her own motivations in writing the book, her research, and the extent of fictionalization. She includes sources for readers who want to pursue the story further, including original correspondence discovered in the 1980’s. She follows with a Reading Group Guide of questions that could be the catalyst for excellent discussions. The book ends with an author interview which provides more background information on the writing of The Other Einstein.
Although there are a lot of references to various specific theories of physics, a physics background is definitely not necessary for full enjoyment of this book. As a personal opinion, I think women would tend to relate better to Maleva’s difficulties and struggles than men. This book enthusiastically receives my highest recommendation.
This book is scheduled for publication on October 18, 2016.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.