When the best thing you can say about a book is “At least there weren’t bad sex scenes…”, it’s problematic.
Part cutesy novel, part biography, R. J. Gadney’s Albert Einstein Speaking explores the remarkable life of Albert Einstein, with the addition of a schoolgirl, Mimi, who accidentally dials his number.
Mimi’s friendship with Einstein bookends biographical information and because of this, Gadney runs into strife. The friendship is unconventional and I assume provides a little whimsy to Einstein’s story but Gadney’s writing style in these sections contrasts to the biographical section of the book.
The bulk of the story is biographical – we learn about Einstein’s career, his fraught relationships, his politics and the odd quirky bit of trivia. Unfortunately, Gadney info-dumps and there is so much specific detail to time and place stamp the book that anything remotely emotive in the story is lost.
How kind to me were the residents of Ulm who intended to name a street after me. Instead, the Nazis named it Fichtestrasse after Fichte, whose works Hitler read, and who was read by other Nazis like Dietrich Eckart and Arnold Fanck. After the war, it was renamed Einsteinstrasse.
Albert spends his summer in Zürich at 116 Hofstrasse, a grandiose building with views of the lake and the Alps. The family takes trips on the paddle-steamer Stadt Rapperswil, built by Escher, Wyss & C. for the Zürich-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft.
See what I mean about info-dumping? I don’t need to know who made the paddle-steamer – it adds nothing to my understanding of Einstein as a person. Far more interesting was Einstein the pacifist, the music-lover, the ladies-man, the crummy father, the philanthropist.
Overall, this book was disappointing. I feel like Gadney should have either written a biography or taken more creative license with an historical fictional angle.
I received my copy of Albert Einstein Speaking from the publisher, Canongate, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
1.5/5 If you’re interested in Einstein, read a biography. Or watch this clip.
‘There’s a traditional dish we’ll have. Risotto al Pesce Persico, prepared with white wine, onion, butter and rice. We can dine in style against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks.’
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (June 22): Belfast 8°-18° and Melbourne 4°-15°.