The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Mileva Maric enters her first physics class at the Zurich Swiss Federal Polytechnic University in the first paragraph of The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. This action doesn’t seem particularly interesting until you realize that it takes place on October 20, 1896 and she is the first woman to ever do so. What background led her to this revolutionary moment? What is her relationship with fellow student Albert Einstein? What influence did her scientific thinking have on his legendary career? How did their relationship progress throughout their lives? How did she balance her extraordinary intelligence and achievements with everyday life? These are questions that Benedict explores and attempts to answer in this book.
An Isaac Newton quote prefaces each part of the book. Benedict skillfully weaves the essence of Newton’s laws of physics into the personality, spirituality and actions of Mileva. She also describes the theory of relativity in such an easy and understandable manner that I am much closer to understanding it and will no longer cringe when the theory is mentioned.
Benedict also succinctly describes the distinctions between cultures of Serbia, Zurich, Bern, Paris and Berlin during the times of this novel. These distinctions set the stage for the horrific wars that we the readers know shortly follow the timeline of this book.
Most of all, though, this book speaks of the struggles of an early combatant in the struggles for female equality. It is fiction, but Benedict researched everything available including letters between the Mileva and Einstein and Mileva and her best friend. No one living today will ever know with certainty the effect Mileva had on Einstein’s theories. The evidence indicates, however, that history doesn’t give enough credit to Mileva.
Although The Other Einstein discusses serious issues, it does so in an incredibly readable manner. The writing is accessible, graceful and sweet but not saccharine. It reads like the best of chick lit although it is so much more.
Discuss this book at Bookmamas on Wednesday, January 25 at 7:00 p.m. Hopefully the author will be able to call in to the discussion.