Monday, July 3, 2017

A Mini Review Mixed Bag

I read The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict book for the Overdrive Big Read.
I found the book to be easy reading, like romance or women's fiction, while exposing the rejection of women by the scientific community and the cultural racism of Europe.

This fictional story of Mileva Einstein, first wife to Albert Einstein, will provide a discussion platform for discussions on how women have been, and still are, marginalized in the male-dominated science and academia. (See Lab Girl by Hope Jahren for a contemporary memoir of a female scientist.)

Whether Mrs. Einstein was the author of ideas that made her husband famous is conjecture or not is unimportant; this book is historical fiction and the author has imagined characters and events so as to tell a good story.

The issue, then, is this a good story? Yes, and no.

I felt a need to have a better understanding of how Mileva went from wanting to be a scientist, to agreeing to a 'bohemian' life with Albert as joint researchers in physics, to a woman who stays in a loveless marriage because of societal judgement of divorcees.

Also, Albert's motivation in pursuing their relationship and his behavior during their marriage is not explored. We only see him through Mileva's eyes as he first seduces her, beds her, then passes off her ideas and research as his own. Albert's actions become increasingly more abusive and mean. I am not sure if we are to think that Albert actually cared for Mileva and then became selfish and mean, or if he had manipulated her from the beginning because she offered something he did not have: a capacity for mathematics.

The structure for a better novel is all here, and it does spur me to want to find out more about the historical Mileva. But I was left feeling conflicted and unsatisfied.
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I enjoyed reading a sample story from the collection I'd Die For You by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I liked it so much, I read it twice! 

I am certainly interested in reading the entire book based on this excerpt. I found the main character different from Fitzgerald's Flapper girl stories, and I liked how the story portrayed her moral and personal growth.

I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

I received a free story through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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I won a new translation of Augustine's Confessions translated by Sara Ruden from Goodreads. I read an old edition of Augustine's Confessions about ten years ago. I will read this over a lengthy period of time, for it is not something one rushes through.

I have finished Book One. I love how immediate and direct Augustine's voice comes through. His joy, his enthusiasm, his love of God is electric.

"My sin was that I sought not God himself, but in things he had created--in myself and the rest of his creation--delights, heights, and perceptions of what was true and right, and in this way I collapsed into sufferings, embarrassments, and erring ways." 
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And talking about confessional books, I was given a copy of The Last Bar in NYC by the author through Goodreads. Brian Michael's novel memoir relates the experiences of a life spent in bars, from the narrator's first bar job at four years old, through the wild party days of booze, drugs, and sex that defined the last decades of the 20th c, until at age fifty leaves his dream of the perfect bar for a new life.

There are memorable scenes and vivid characters. Don't look for a discernable plot line; the book is episodic as it follows the narrator's life, from bar to bar, as he struggles to rise above the destructive lures of the bar environment. I kept rooting for him as he rises and falls and stumbles. The book ends with hope that in his post-bar life he found a far better place to be.

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My local library book club choice for June was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had first heard of this book when a friend read it when it was first published. She loved the book.

This book club group is comprised of mostly older women. The overall response was lukewarm, with some disliking it and most mildly liking it. One woman who enjoys YA books loved it, and felt the teens in her life would love it as well. 

I talked with a friend who is a Language Arts teacher for Eighth Grade about this book, and she thought her kids would love it.

I myself did not finish the book. I had trouble with how a young female magician was being trained by her father through physical harm she was then to heal by magic. I shuddered with the visual image and could not return to the book.

I had the same problem with another book club's choice of the National Book Award-winning  Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. A brutal scene of torture and murder of a slave was so horrendous I could not read on. 

It is not that these books were without merit! Obviously! But I find the older I get the more sensitive I am to the horrors humans inflict on each other. Some days it takes an awful lot of faith and hope to believe that we can do better, be better. 
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