I started The Other Einstein: A Novel not knowing too much about either of the Einsteins. I loved my physics classes but that was nearly 25 years ago!
This book provides (fictional) perspective of Einstein’s first wife, Mileva, also a brilliant physicist. As a woman in this male dominated field, especially during the early 1900s, her path was difficult, as the only woman in her classes then trying to keep up on her scientific research while bearing (Einstein’s) children and later forced to watch him receive credit for her own work.
Her character presents that she was actually the creator of the theory of relativity in 1905 and that she authored several of his most famous papers. Because she did not actually finish her degree (because she got pregnant before they were married) her name could not technically appear on the research and papers. These allegations and suggestions are certainly plausible and intriguing, making for a great read.
Science is incorporated into the book but not too heavily. I enjoyed the way the author used the theories to represent physical relationships between people.
For example, quoting Sir Issac Newton at the beginning of the chapter where their relationship is irrecoverably broken:
“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.”
I greatly enjoyed this book, but it left me with a unsettling feeling about the negative feelings I now have towards Albert Einstein. Thus, I did some minor research and learned that letters and documentation show he had affairs and left his first wife for a woman who was both his first and second cousin (still trying to wrap my mind around this one). Likely he wasn’t the best husband – as is suggested here. The possibility of him plagiarizing his own wife’s work…well it is possible but can’t be proven at this point.
So I’m trying to leave my feelings about this in the context of the author’s suggestion that:
“This is not just Mileva Einstein’s story but the story of all ‘women whose own aspirations and contributions were marginalized in favor of their spouses.'”
No doubt there are many such stories.
Overall this is a powerful love story (until it wasn’t a love story) and life story about fascinating people and fascinating topics that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I will need to keep reminding myself it is fiction and only speculation.
I was provided a complimentary download of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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