A Mind of Her Own by Paula McLain

Posted February 22, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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A Mind of Her Own

A Mind of Her Own

by Paula McLain

Publisher: Audible Studios on February 28, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Target Age Group: Adult

Rating: ★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

Paris, 1893. Twenty-five-year-old Marie Sklodowska is studying science at the Sorbonne - one of the only universities in the world that has begun to admit women. A thousand miles from her native Poland, with no money and the odds stacked against any woman daring to pursue a career in such a rigorous field, Marie throws herself into her studies. She's certain that to succeed in a man's world, she will have to go it alone.

Her meticulous plans get thrown slightly off-course when Marie attracts the attention of an accomplished young physicist, himself on the precipice of greatness. Thirty-five-year-old Pierre Curie, famous for his work on symmetry, believes he has found in Marie an equal who shares his devotion to scientific discovery. He offers to help with her work, and soon begins to court her. But to Marie, men have always been an obstacle, love a distraction from her goals. She hasn't come this far to let either stand in the way of her dreams - dreams Pierre insists they can share.

 

To be perfectly honest, A Mind of Her Own isn’t very good.  I come to this conclusion for a couple of reasons, one personal and one structural.  I’ll start with the technical aspects.

A Mind of Her Own is written as a short story, and as such, there’s an extremely limited amount of time to build character and setting.  While there is a little introduction, McLain relies heavily on the reader’s previous knowledge of Marie and Pierre to form their characters.  While A Mind of Her Own initially explores Marie’s university experience and does so in an intriguing way, it quickly switches gears.  The true goal of this story is to share the early months of romance between Marie and Pierre.

In this format, a complex romantic plot is a tricky proposition.  As is implied by the title, Marie’s relationship with Pierre was more than just a typical love story – it was a scientific partnership in which Marie had her own intellectual autonomy.  A Mind of Her Own is only an hour and fifteen minutes long, and in this time McLain tries to (briefly) introduce Marie and Pierre, build their world around them, and their romance from their first meeting until their marriage.  In this capsule of time, it seems like the entire romance is conjecture.  In that way, it feels like a little research was done on Curie, but for the most part, this was intended to be a quick romance.

And that is entirely disappointing.

Marie Curie was a fascinating woman whose scientific contributions changed the world.  Additionally, she made these contributions at a time when women were not generally respected in the scientific community.  The title A Mind of Her Own implies something greater than this story delivers.  Curie had so many things stacked against her – the climate towards women, her own social stature for two.  Quite possibly the least interesting thing about Marie and her “mind” is her romance.  An overly romanticised speech about how she didn’t want to enter a relationship if she had to sacrifice her studies is possibly the cheesiest and less satisfying “struggle” Madame Curie encountered.  Color me unimpressed.

If you’re going in for a quick romance story with little to no historical bearing other than using a name and the vaguest of vague essences of a person… then you will likely enjoy A Mind of Her Own.  As an historian and disliker of romance fiction, this novel disappointed me.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★
Plot: ★★
Characters: ★ 1.2
Writing: ★★
Pacing: ★★
Narrator: ★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment:

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How do you feel about historical fiction that features real people?  I’ve had mixed success, depending on the author.  I’d love to hear about your experience, so please let me know in the comments!

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