The Other Einstein is Mileva Maric, who starts out as a shy, mildly disabled, bookish girl traveling to Zurich to start college as a physics and math student. At the beginning, her story is a joy—meeting new friends, fighting back, rather successfully against the established norm that women have no place in academics, and taking advantage of the opportunities a big city has to offer. Soon she meets Albert Einstein, of whom everyone seems to disapprove. A whirlwind courtship follows anyhow, Mileva constantly surprised that Einstein would be interested in her.
And then it happens. The apocalypse. Oh, rather, she sleeps with him, and becomes pregnant, but really, the overall effect is the same. And at that moment the book seems to flip from a more progressive look at a capable woman in science to the typical woman wronged. The pregnancy and the resulting illegitimate daughter manage to ruin Mileva’s hopes, dreams, and marriage. Almost immediately, Einstein’s previously charming persona disappears and he becomes the Mr. Hyde of the physics set, refusing to see his own daughter, taking his sweet time marrying Mileva, taking credit for her work, and eventually, even abusing her. This last third of the book is a slog, and the feel of it echoes Einstein’s complaint, that Mileva sucks the joy out of everything. Starting this book was enjoyable, but finishing was a chore.
And so we toss Mileva Maric on the pile of Cautionary Tales for Literary Women, a capital I for insecurity emblazoned on her chest.