Book Review: The First Mrs. Einstein

*originally published 11/09/2016

I have been hard at work in getting my new website up and running. I have been planning and learning things beyond my capacity. I am hoping that if all goes well I can launch on January 1, 2017. In the meantime, I will still be posting reviews, but to a lesser extent. I am happy to announce a new feature called, Woman Crush Wednesday. I hope to showcase great women in books – whether real or created characters. And on to the review…

3052281THE OTHER EINSTEIN Written by Marie Benedict

2016; 304 Pages (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Genre: historical fiction, fictionalized biography

(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY in exchange for an honest review.)

Rating: ★★★★

While I do not understand physics and mathematics, I have always been fascinated by the women and men who excel in the field.  Einstein has always seemed like a fascinating character, but I have not actually read anything on him. Other than him being brilliant I have not heart much about his personality.  When I saw this novelized biography of Einstein’s first wife I figured, why not?

Mileva “Mitza” Marić at the age of 20, went to Zürich University to get her degree in physics.  In 1896, women were getting married and having children, as their family dictated.  Mitza’s father sees his daughter only excelling in school.  It is due to his efforts to get her educated that she attends an elite school that has not let many women through their doors.  Once accepted into the program she must also get the acceptance of her peers and professors.  With her brilliant mind and hard work she is able to impress fellow student, Albert Einstein.  As the two study together they become closer and Mitza must decide if she can be a wife and a scientist.  

I had not heard of Mileve Maric before I read this novel, and it has been my loss.  This women with a slight limp and a powerful mind is a true inspiration woman.  I can only imagine how much she must have endured in her life to do something she was good at but was frowned upon. Also, her limp has been brought up a few times in the book.  It has been equated to a deformity.  It seems a bit harsh but that was what it was like in those times, and what some people thought.  Since finishing the novel, I have Googled to find more information and hope to find a biography to read.  

Now, the novel is based on real people but it is a fictionalized version.  Benedict has taken liberties with the facts to write a beautiful novel.  I started this novel on Saturday night but had work the next day so I had to put it aside.  Once I got home, I read till I finished the book.  Then with every book that touched me, I held it while I processed it all through my mind.  Benedict has a way of taking a reader to the time and place of the setting but also into the mind of the characters.  I went in thinking I would learn a bit more about Einstein but instead came away with great admiration for Mitza. This novel is about Mitza, not Albert, so you get her perspective and and her life.  Albert was portrayed as a bit of a…jerk.  That is because using facts, Benedict has given us Mitza’s side of the story.   I know some readers had a problem with this novel not be more “factual” about the Einsteins.  For me, I love a good story…if it is a fictionalized story of a real person it leads me to read a biography or memoir.  I read this book for entertainment, if you will, and The Other Einstein delivers!




Image: Pinterest


Ms. Benedict has been kind enough to provide My Novelesque Life with a guest post! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

THE OTHER EINSTEIN: Researching and Writing

By Marie Benedict

 When I first decided that I would write THE OTHER EINSTEIN, a novel about Mileva Maric who was Albert Einstein’s first wife and a physicist herself, I rolled up my sleeves and dug into the research. This deep dive into the past, utilizing original source material if I can get my hands on it, is one of my favorite aspects of writing historical fiction and the closest step I can take into the time portal I dreamed about in my childhood. I adore losing myself in the minutiae of the daily life of historical figures so that I answer long-held questions about their roles in the past, in this case understanding Mileva’s part in Albert’s four most ground-breaking theories.

But this time was different. This time, finding original source material about my character was unusually challenging. And this was a hurdle I hadn’t expected given that my character — based on the real-life woman Mileva Maric — was married to one of the world’s most famous and written-about men during the most prolific period in his life.

Countless tomes about the iconic Albert Einstein sat on the shelves of bookstores and libraries that I visited. Those books sometimes referenced Mileva Maric, but only rarely with any specificity or detail. A few wonderful books emerged which gave me information about Mileva and the world from whence she came, among them Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance by Dennis Overbye, In Albert’s Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Maric by Milan Popovic, and Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl by Michele Zackheim. But otherwise, it was hard to find information about Mileva. Why was this, I wondered. Was it because people had their gaze so firmly fixed on the man that they forgot to look at the woman bolstering him?

I rejoiced when I found Mileva’s letters, which can now be found in Albert Einstein/Mileva Maric: The Love Letters by Jurgen Renn and Robert Schulman and Reading Mileva’s own words to Albert, her best friend Helene and a few others, I came to understand her brilliant, insatiably curious mind as well as the unsure, naive woman who lurked behind it. I began to see how a woman as intelligent as Melissa might also be emotionally insecure enough — due to a childhood and young adulthood without friends or romantic ties due to her unusually sharp mind and physical defect — to withstand certain unacceptable behavior from the mercurial Albert. It was this particular research that allowed me to excavate Mileva Maric from the past.


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