The Other Einstein: A Novel
The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict, is a look at lost dreams, failing hopes, and “what ifs.” What if Mileva, the little known first wife of Albert Einstein, had never forsaken her path and graduated with a physics degree as she had planned? What if she had collaborated equally with her husband?
This extraordinary woman had the misfortune to be born into a world reluctant to allow women a university education, especially in the “hard” sciences of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Mileva had to fight for her chance, with everything working against her. She was a female of Eastern European descent who walked with a pronounced limp and was subject to open and veiled scorn alike.
Mileva met Albert at university in Zurich. He was the first in her small class to be welcoming, and soon enough he managed to sneak under her guard and into her affections. This proved her undoing, in more ways than one. A pregnancy and birth out of wedlock led to Mileva failing her final work toward her physics degree and never going back to finish. Instead, she married Einstein and had two more children by him. Sadly, only the middle child survived, though by that point, Mileva was separated from the renowned physicist.
This work is one of historical fiction, speculating on the relationship between Mileva and Albert, including the notion that she helped him develop the theory of relativity we know him for today. Of course, we cannot know all of the truth today, but it’s a fascinating look behind the scenes of the famed physicist’s life and an even more fascinating look at this sharp-minded woman determined to go against convention. History is as relative as time; it is the story written by the victor of an engagement, especially in absence of strong compelling evidence to the contrary.
Benedict’s book is astounding. I breezed through it in a few quick hours, secluding myself from family so as to better sink into the story world. There is nothing worse than being abruptly torn from a truly engrossing story, leaving one momentarily dazed and confused by the shift, especially for mere trivialities. The writing was beautiful and always engaging, often drawing tears and melancholy. What could Mileva have accomplished had she stayed her own course? As a bonus, the cover art is quite magnificent.