A brilliant sliding-doors reimagining of the passionate life of the first woman to win a Nobel Prize – and the life Marie Curie might have led if she had chosen love over science.
Poland, 1891. Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a budding mathematician, Kazimierz Zorawski. But when his mother insisted Marya was not good enough, he broke off the engagement. A heartbroken Marya left Poland for Paris to study chemistry and physics at the Sorbonne. Marie would go on to change the course of science forever and become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
But what if Marie had made a different choice?
What if she had stayed in Poland, married Kazimierz, and never attended the Sorbonne or discovered radium? What if Marie had chosen her first love and a life of domesticity, still ravenous for knowledge in Russian Poland where education for women was restricted, instead of studying science in Paris and meeting Pierre Curie?
Seamlessly entwining the lives of Marya and Marie, Half Life is a powerful story of love and friendship, motherhood and sisterhood, fame and anonymity – and a woman destined to change the world.
Cantor (In Another Time) deconstructs the life of Nobel Prize winning scientist Marie Curie with a fascinating premise: what if Maria Skolodowska had never left Poland in 1891 to go to Paris and reinvent herself as Marie Curie? The novel begins with Marie, 66 and dying, wondering what would have happened if she had married mathematician Kazimierz Zorawski. Alternating narratives explore parallel realities of two fiercely independent women. Marya Zorawski's world is dominated by domesticity and a Russian culture that denies women the right to an education. In the world of Marie Curie, her failed engagement to Kazimierz propels her to Paris, where she marries Pierre and has a "phosphorescent" public life. Occasional crossovers underscore how both versions of Maria are dedicated to work, love, and family. Cantor's vivid historic background features the first Tour de France and Marie's mobile X-ray units on the WWI front, and her fundraising visit to the U.S. adds enriching historical details. Strong secondary characters contribute to the lively story lines. Fans of Kate Atkinson's Time After Time will want to take a look.