Marie Benedict [Heather Terrell], The Other Einstein: A Novel, Naperville, IL:
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2016, 303 pages, $25.99 (hardcover).
Alberto A. Martı
The Other Einstein is a novel written as an autobiography of Mileva Maric
Einstein’s ﬁrst wife. Marie Benedict aims to write a historical novel: based on facts
but ﬁlling in the rest with her imagination. The cover jacket is beautiful and
striking: a haunting image of Mileva Maric
, a young Serbian woman standing with
a suitcase and facing a foggy city in darkness. I imagine that it portrays the
moment when she ﬁrst moved to Zurich, to begin her studies at the famous
Polytechnikum, now known as the Swiss Federal Polytechnic.
The prologue is a letter by Mileva Maric
, written in 1948, the year she died. In
it, she fears the end and wonders how she lost her daughter. This letter is ﬁctitious,
though the author does not say so. Benedict describes herself as ‘‘an exhaustive
researcher who prefers to use original source material.’’ To write this novel, she
studied history more than for her other books, she writes, adding: ‘‘I attempted to
stay as close to the facts as possible.’’ However, she really did not stay as close to
the facts as possible. For example, she twice writes that Einstein was from Berlin.
She even has him say it: ‘‘I am originally from Berlin’’ (p. 132). Actually, he was
born in Ulm and grew up in Munich. The book has numerous such mistakes.
This is not to say that the book is without merit. It nicely envisions some of the
struggles that Maric
presumably endured as she studied sciences in the 1890s, in a
world dominated by sexist men. Maric
was born with a hip dislocation, so Benedict
portrays her as a lonely and unconventional child who limps and worries about her
‘‘deformity,’’ a short, insecure, but very bright woman who was a conscientious and
driven student. Benedict ponders the ‘‘unfeminine path’’ chosen by Maric
: to study
physics and mathematics. Maric
worries about being unmarriageable. The novel is
easy to read, a quick page-turner.
Benedict attributes to Maric
some of the notions that popular writers associate
with Einstein. At an early age, she seeks ‘‘answers to the greatest questions about
* Alberto A. Martı
nez is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is
the author of Science Secrets: The Truth About Darwin’s Finches, Einstein’s Wife, and Other
Myths (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011) and Kinematics: The Lost Origins of Einstein’s
Relativity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), among other books.
Phys. Perspect. 20 (2018) 208–217
Ó 2018 Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature
Physics in Perspective