The Other Einstein: A Review

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The last book I finished reading in 2016 was Marie Benedict’s novel The Other Einstein.

Short version: Brilliant, sheltered young woman gets played and played and played again.

Long version. A deformed hip let Mileva pursue an education in a man’s field–physics right at the dawn of the 20th Century. In her cohort was the young  Albert Einstein who takes an interest in Mileva from the get-go. While Mileva has made a pact with other girls to pursue science and live the life of a professional, Einstein continues his efforts to ingratiate himself. As feelings ripen, Mileva takes the BFF pact with the girls very seriously and flees to another University. When she gives up and returns to Switzerland, the girls and Einstein love finally triumphs. Until it doesn’t. She should have trusted her gut reactions. But, woman believe what the want in any day and age. (Been there myself, got the t-shirt and the divorce). Idealistic, sheltered. Sadly it often adds up to gullible and manipulable.

Since time began men have used smart women to advance their careers. In the early 20th Century it was considered a good move to marry the boss’s daughter or similar. After all, marriage made them “one.” Many a woman has contributed far, far more than we’ll ever know to a famous man’s career. Remember Harry Truman’s saying? “Behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law.” But in Albert Einstein’s early career it was an outraged wife and a surprised mother-in-law. But that outraged wife was savvy–way savvier than her using rat of a hubby.

This book is well written and believable. The author gives a full account of what is fact and what is fiction which helps. But even acknowledging that Mileva was very, very well educated and therefore would have come into contact with progressive views on women-probably even going so far as to read the early feminists. Add that Albert made the so-called Bohemian life seem so romantic (hardly the first time a man’s pulled that ruse, either be it a lifestyle on the extreme left or the extreme right), I found some of her outrage a bit too 21st Century. While, I doubt another woman was duped to the point of a Nobel Prize, I just think at that time and place she’d have gone on accepting the lies. The pleasant surprise was how she negotiated the end. Brilliant move.

But, did she really clearly see that Berlin saw East Europeans so badly then? Antisemitism was clearly present in  Kaiser Wilhelm II’s reign and in his court, but the East European discrimination, I’m not sure. Finally, I found it very odd that she didn’t have at least a maid of all work.

In the end I did not like Milvena-she was full of herself. But if I disliked her, I loathed Albert Einstein.

 

 

 

 

 

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