Mileva Maric overcomes adversity and prejudice to study physics at Zurich Polytechnic in 1896. She is the only female on the course, and after a difficult start is befriended by fellow student Albert Einstein. The friendship develops into a romantic relationship, where Albert sees Mileva as an equal partner in their educaton and lives together, very progressive in a time where women were seen as homemakers. After marriage they work together on several projects and papers, but after having children their relationship begins to change and he shuts her out of his academic work. The premis of this book is just how influential Mileva was in Einstein’s early work, especially on his 1905 paper on the Theory of Relativity, that later got nominated for a Nobel Prize.
This is a well written, engaging novel, full of historical detail. Mileva was a strong women who faced not only the prejudice of being an intelligent woman in a male dominated society but she also had to overcome discrimination due to her Serbian heritage and the fact she had a limp due to a hip defect. However, in the end she did sacrifice some of her ideals to become a mother and wife but later continued with her studies.
I do like a historical novel where I learn something new, and this book certainly gave me that. I had never heard of Mileva Maric, and it seems her light was hidden under a bushel so to speak. This is a work of fiction but it is based on fact and evidence from letters between Mileva and Albert, and she is discussed in the scientific world. I really enjoyed the story and how the realatonship of Albert and Mileva developed then imploded later down the line.
A great read, an interesting look into how women were viewed in the academic world and also a love story.
Please read below a post by Marie Benedict on what drew her to the story of Mileva Maric.
BOOKLITERATI BLOG POST
I am always seeking out the hidden voices of the past to use in my novels, like THE OTHER EINSTEIN. The voices of the under-represented, the voices of the minority, the voices of the marginalized, and especially, the voices of the women (who are sometimes all of those things). To properly hear those voices, I need to access them directly. Not second, third or fourth-hand through the filter of a historian or a commentator who brings to the telling their own perspective. This is why I search for original source material, when I can get my hands on it.
It was original source material that drew me to Mileva Maric, the main character in THE OTHER EINSTEIN, who is based upon Albert Einstein’s real-life first wife and fellow physics student at university alongside him and who may have contributed to his theories. When I first became intrigued by Mileva, the initial research I obtained — secondary source material focused on Albert — frustrated me. But when I came across the original source material of Mileva’s letters to Albert, her friends, and her family, I became entranced by Mileva.
Reading Mileva’s own words, I saw her for the brilliant, tenacious young woman that she must have been, and began to understand how she made the amazing climb from the remote reaches of the Austro-Hungarian empire where it was illegal for girls to attend high school to a Swiss university where she became one of the first female physics students. Yet, her words also revealed her emotional naiveté, not surprising in light of her relative ostracism from youthful friends and romantic involvements due to her unusual academic interests and her isolating hip defect, a quality that made her vulnerable to Albert’s mercurial nature. Without her letters, I could have never really heard Mileva Maric’s voice — and I would never been able to write THE OTHER EINSTEIN, the story of Albert Einstein’s first wife and the contribution she may have made to his theories.