Sunday, 9 September 2012

Marie Cure and her Daughters by Shelley Emling

I try to read a couple of non-fiction books every month, I enjoy biographies and travel books.  I was delighted to receive a copy of Marie Curie and her Daughters by Shelley Emling through my letter-box a few weeks ago. The book will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on 20 September 2012.

Science has never really been my 'thing'.  At school I really struggled with physics and chemistry and was much happier in English Language or History classes.  My mind is not structured enough to understand how science works, I'm a bit of a day-dreamer and prefer using my imagination rather than learning facts, figures and formula.  Of course I knew who Marie Curie was, her great achievements, her contribution to science, to medical advances and impact on the world, but other than that, I really had very little idea about her life.

Shelley Emling has based this book on Marie Curie's relationship with her two daughers; Irene and Eve.  The book begins after the early death of Pierre Curie, when Marie is left to carry on the work that they started as a couple and to bring up her two small daughters alone.   Emling has concentrated her book on the correspondence between Marie and her daughters.   She was not an overly-protective mother, nor did she hesitate to spend time away from her daughters, yet this did not weaken their relationship.  Marie was a caring and loving mother, who encouraged her daughters to become individuals, to achieve what the wanted to and to become famous and influential women in their own rights.

Marie Curie found an advocate in Missy Meloney, an American journalist who campaigned in the USA on behalf on Marie.   Missy was able to rally support from wealthy and important US women, who in turn raised money so that Marie could continue with her important and ground-breaking research.  It says a lot about Marie Curie and her husband that although they discovered radium and it's remarkable properties, they made the decision not to profit from it.  It was their belief that their discovery should be used for the greater masses and for the advancement of medical treatment.  It was because of these decisions that Marie had to depend on donations to carry out her work, and that she had to carry out tours of the States to make herself known.

Shelley Emling has written a book that is very readable, concentrating more on Marie Curie's private life and her relationship with her family than on the scientific details that could have bogged down the story for me.
Marie Curie is portrayed as a woman of integrity, strong beliefs and views, yet she is not painted as a saint-like figure in any way.  She had her foibles that only add to her humanity.

I was very impressed by Emling's writing style - she has told the story of three extraordinary women who were way ahead of their time in an interesting and very readable manner.

My thanks go to Claire from Palgrave for sending a copy for review.

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