book review

The Other Einstein- Marie Benedict

I was chosen by Netgalley to review the book “The Other Einsten” by Marie Benedict (aka Heather Terrell). Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all. “The Other Einstein” has a scheduled release date of October 18th 2016.

What drew me to request this book? First and foremost, the cover AND the title of this book drew me in. For some reason, this year I have dove head first into historical fiction. It’s about the only genre that has not disappointed me. Once I read the description, I was hooked, and waited patiently with crossed fingers that I would be chosen to review this book.

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You know in high school, where you don’t appreciate what you’re being taught? As an adult, part of me wishes I would have paid more attention in history class- either that or take an extension on a class to delve further into history. Apparently years ago I couldn’t be bothered with things like that, so I’m making up for lost time now. Part of me also wishes that said history class would also make you read certain historical fiction books to coincide with lesson plans.

We all know who Albert Einstein is. E = mc2. He’s famous for his eccentric hair, his unorganized disposition, maybe even his Nobel Prize winnings. In other words, the higher the rise of a man, the bigger the shadow he casts. In most cases, that shadow usually encompasses the family in a toxic cloud of neglect, and sometimes abuse, whether mental or physical. The shadow that Albert Einstein casts falls directly on his first wife, Mileva Marić’s shoulders. “The Other Einstein” is Mileva’s story- the untold Einstein story, and in most cases the unheard Einstein story.

First paragraph of the book: “The end is near. I feel it approaching like a dark, seductive shadow that will extinguish my remaining light. In these last minutes, I look back.”

Mileva Marić is an exemplary woman. She defies the standards that the world has put on women. Unfortunately, the time period didn’t see her in that light. Mileva was born with lame foot, already putting a strike against her name. As a young child growing up in Serbia, Mileva was gifted even at a young age. Thankfully, her father saw her potential and was her biggest supporter throughout her life. Because of him, she was able to defy most of the obstacles that life had put in her way. Life was not easy for Mileva. Every corner she turned she was faced with some sort of mistreatment because of her disability, because of her brilliance, or because of her gender. Unfortunately, this trifecta of abuse will continue to follow her into adulthood. Typically girls did not continue their education. Upon completing grade school, most girls stayed home and followed in their mother’s footsteps; to one day fulfill their ultimate roles as wives and mothers. Mileva showed potential. Her father was her biggest advocate, asking the authorities himself to allow Mileva to continue to high school. It seemed her mother, at times, resented her. In order to attend the high school, her father moved the family away from the burial site of Mileva’s two older siblings. It is not until later in life that her mother will become one of her biggest supporters.

Continuing to be an advocate for her future, her father travels with Mileva to interview a boarding school that she would room in while attending college. A feat in itself, for Mileva is the 5th woman to attend the Polytechnic school in Zurich, but will be the 2nd woman to graduate. It is here at the Polytechnic school that she meets Albert Einstein. Back then, he was just a bumbling student, who referred to himself as a Bohemian, and slowly but surely knocked down Mileva’s walls that she had accepted were part of her life; a life of solitude and scholarship. Their friendship starts simple. Albert simply walks her home while it’s raining out, so that she will not slip and injure herself. Walking her up to the boarding house,  he presumptuously invites himself over to join in their musicality appointments before dinner. Finishing her first year at Polytechnic, the girls living at the boarding house schedule an end of year hike. Einstein has presumptuously invited himself, along with a friend. While at the top of the hike, Einstein asks if he may have a moment alone with Mileva. Once everyone has left, he tells her how he feels about her, how in love he is with her, and gently tells her that he would not do anything to deter her from her studies, and steals a kiss. Mileva gently rebuffs his advances, and decides to spend the summer with her family.

While away, Albert writes to her. While ignoring every letter, Mileva can’t help but fall in love with him. What was once indoctrinated into her from a young age, that she was not marriage material, she now lets occupy her thoughts. Over the course of a few chapters, you see their secret courtship, and their secret vacation which leads to an unexpected pregnancy. To hide the shame Mileva has caused her family, she spends her time with her mother in the family’s summer home. Mileva has not only shamed her family by conceiving a child out of wedlock, but now she risks Albert’s current and future job propositions and overall respectability. Mileva has a girl, Lieserl, however Albert is not apart of her life. In a quick turn around trip, Mileva leaves Lieserl, to marry Albert, and then is told she may not return. Lieserl unfortunately passes due to scarlet fever. In her grief, Mileva has an epiphany of what will be the backbone to Albert’s credited Theory of Relativity.

What readers saw as a torrid and romantic love affair, quickly changes over to a mentally and physically exhausting relationship. While completing his theory based off of Mileva’s epiphany, his popularity grows. Albert is now a sought after physicist, being asked to move all over Europe to become head professor, head of the physics committee, and later in life the Nobel Prize winner. Whilst doing his research, he subtly leaves his wife’s name off of everything, and also neglects Mileva, and starts an affair. Although easily foiled in it’s early stage, Mileva continues to withdraw into herself.

What I loved about this book. This is an absolutely fantastic book for women (and men) but really this has women’s rights written all over it. In a time period where women’s education was not important, Mileva defies the odds. Here is a woman, born with a deformity, born a girl, told she will never be married, most likely never give birth, only have a limited education, defy everyone in the most elegant way ever written, by helping out none other than Albert Einstein with the famous Theory of Relativity. Such an enormous feat, and while reading “The Other Einstein” it’s such an enormous let down, when what should be her most trusted confidant, her husband, leaves her name off of everything.

I’ve left so much out of this review, mainly because I could go into such great detail that would ruin the book. You honestly just need to read it for yourself. What excites me even more, is that Marie Benedict (aka Heather Terrell) is currently working on ANOTHER historical fiction book. Marie Benedict, it’s quite possible that you’ve become my favorite author in this category. I am anxiously awaiting your next book about Andrew Carnegie.

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