Monday, August 23, 2010
The Einstein Girl - Philip Sington
Note: Hey all, I am back after a long absence. My mother has not been keeping well and she has just recovered. It feels great to write here again. I will visit all your blogs soon! :)
There is a line at the top of the book: "At the heart of truth lies madness.." and reading this book, you realize that it is so true. It is a web of deceit, intrigue, passion and utter loss of hope and as you delve into the book, it unravels before you and leaves you by turns aghast and spellbound at the turn of events.
The book opens in Berlin, May 1933: a woman named Alma haunts the local police station everyday in search of her missing fiance, Martin Kirch. And so Sington begins to tell us Martin Kirch's story and we are taken back to October 1932 when Martin's world changes irretrievably.
Psychiatrist Martin Kirch is a man who lives in the shadows of his past. He cannot get over the horrors of the great war where he had been an army doctor and contracts syphilis as a result. With Martin, engaged to be married into high society Berlin, one gets the sense that his life has been made but Sington lets you slip into the man's mind and you realize that they are still waters and that they run very deep. Martin Kirch is a man tormented with tertiary stage syphillis and the unenviable task of having to hide it from the public in fear of stigma. One thing remains for him to do: he must break his engagement. At this point, into Martin's life comes the case of a girl simply dubbed as The Einstein Girl. She is found half naked and near death in the woods outside the city and when she recovers from her coma, she can remember nothing. The only clue to her identity is a pamphlet found near her, advertising a lecture by Albert Einstein on Quantum Theory. Martin is struck by this girl and takes on the case and soon consumed with a reckless passion for the girl, he embarks on a quest for her identity that takes him Zurich, Serbia and a psychiatric hospital in Zurich to visit Einstein's son Eduard. Who is this girl and how is she connected with Albert Einstein? What will happen to Martin Kirch?
The Einstein Girl offers staggering foray into the mind and life of one of the greatest geniuses this world has seen. Sington has woven in the rise of the Nazi regime and the immediate effect it had on the medical world with amazing subtlety. In the hectic political climate of 1930s Berlin, power was everything and the Nazi's covert T-4 operation ( a euthanasia program odered in an effort to rid the German race of any "bad blood". Millions of special needs and psychiatric patients were put to death.) was already underway. You read the novel with a sense of foreboding and urgency because you, the reader, has some sense of the abyss into which Germany and the rest of Europe was about to be plunged. In the end, Sington leaves you with your heart breaking a little for Kirch, for the girl, for Alma, for Eduard and even for Einsten and you wonder at what might have been. Philip Sington's Einstein Girl may not be a book I might read a second time but I am glad I read it the first time around. The Einstein Girl's greatest strength might be the way it is written: fiction based on skeletal fact at its most chilling.