The Other Einstein Book Review

The Other Einstein Book Review

What is this about?: Mitza, Einstein’s first wife. We learn about her in the beginning before the story follows her romance with Einstein and the eventual end of their relationship.

What else is this about?: That’s it. What I said above.

Should you read: No. Don’t bother. The book has noble ambitions, but fails in execution.

Stars: 2.5

Blurb: A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe,The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.

A disclaimer first: I know nothing Einstein, other than his most famous work and didn’t even know he was married. What can I say, I hated physics.

The book takes on the admirable task of bringing to life a woman that I wonder if history has forgotten entirely? I’m not sure, this book didn’t exactly make me want to look further than Wikipedia to learn about Mitza.

Mitza is the focus of this narrative, a strong-willed girl who wants nothing more than to study and to be someone more. She is in essence, fighting for something every woman is going to understand, and at a time when the idea of work, of forgoing marriage was impossible to comprehend.

At university, she meets Einstein, and despite her best intentions to dissuade him from pursuing her, he does exactly that. She, in turn, finds him impossible to resist because he appeals to her brain as much as her heart.

It’s a wonderfully  epic love story, through trials and tribulations that are going to wreck you and does indeed wreck Mitza as she battles what she wants for herself and her career versus what she wants with Albert. You’ll want her to be your friend, I’m pretty sure you know someone like her struggling with the same questions. For the first half of the book, I found her easy to empathise with.

But there was something that didn’t gel for me and I admit, I’m still trying to figure how to articulate it exactly, but here you go: Einstein is a caricature. If you’re going to write a story from the POV of his wife, and their relationship is pretty much the entire story, he needs to be as strong a character as she is.

Instead he is a collection of clichés: the attentive young man who does everything right and later an asinine husband who treats his wife like shit and thinks nothing of it. I guess he is a product of the times they lived in? I don’t know. For me, to see what Mitza sees and experiences and loses, we in part needed to appreciate why she fell in love with Einstein and why everything after wrecked her so. But he is without depth, and I think that does a disservice to her story. There were so many moments where I couldn’t believe how much of an arse Einstein was, and yet here she was putting up with him that… I guess, she comes across as a martyr to his erratic nature, in a way.

I wanted to like this, but I needed a more balanced characterisation to this story. He was too erratic. She too perfect, and I think that’s because this is from her POV. Had this been a third person POV book, it might have worked better.

This book tries to do right by a woman lost to history. But, sadly doesn’t succeed as much as it could.

What do you think of the characterisation?

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