There are very few people I can think of who we idolize more than Einstein. He’s remembered fondly as the father of Relativistic Physics and his personal life is rarely looked at. Einstein changed the way that everyone looked at physics and the world around us, it was as big a leap forward as Newton discovering gravity (and also creating calculus so he could do the complex math needed for his equations). He changed the way we measure the movement of the planets and helped make our equations more precise.
It’s by taking relativistic changes into account that causes our GPS to be as accurate as it is, for example, and helps the positioning of our satellites even though both the satellites and the Earth are constantly moving at high speeds.
So when it comes to Einstein all that’s talked about is the science and his contribution to it. I didn’t even know that he was married before I picked up the newest Big Library Read: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict.
The novel opens with Mileva Marić, a young physics student in a world who doesn’t want women to be a part of academia. On top of having to struggle through being a female student, she also is looked down upon for being an Eastern European, and then looked down upon again for having a limp. The Other Einstein doesn’t miss a beat here and does not shy away from calling attention to racially motivated mistreatment.
At first, the novel reads a bit like a young adult novel.
Mileva is going to school to earn her degree so she can follow her scientific dreams and she finds room and board in a house with three other academically-minded women. From the very beginning the friendship between the four women is an absolute delight. They are a solace to each other in a world where the university professors can shame and harrass them, where their colleagues refuse to treat them as equals, and where their tiniest failings will be magnified.
It’s in her university classes that Mileva meets a young Albert Einstein who doesn’t seem to share the attitudes of the other men in the class, refusing to be cruel to her. He is persistent in his affections toward her and the story unfolds from there, the beginning of their love.
The young adult romance that comes into bloom doesn’t last forever. If that’s something you don’t enjoy, the novel takes a more mature turn as things progress. Despite there being a large focus on the romance, this isn’t a romantic novel. When I first began reading, I thought it would be another insipid young adult retelling of something that should have been more adult, but The Other Einstein wasn’t about to let me become complacent. Oh no.
I can’t say much more since the novel is something better left discovered by the reader themself, but it’s another sign of Einstein that we rarely get to see. Instead of the goofy old man who’s sticking out his tongue, we get to see an Einstein who is charming, charismatic, and determined to get his scientific due. But beyond that, The Other Einstein truly shines in how it writes Mileva and the attention it gives to her after so long of not being in the spotlight. It’s a beautiful treatment of Mileva’s life and although we may never know the truth, I’m so glad that Marie Benedict brought her to my attention.
Eye-opening and a beautiful treatment of a life in the shadows.