Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Marie Curie and Her Daughters by Shelley Emling

Title: Marie Curie and Her Daughters
Author: Shelley Emling
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Publish Date: August 21, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You like biographies.
  • You like learning about interesting people.
What's the Story?:

From "Focusing on the first family in science, this biography of Marie Curie plumbs the recesses of her relationships with her two daughters, extraordinary in their own right, and presents the legendary scientist to us in a fresh way.

Although the common image is that of a shy introvert toiling away in her laboratory, highly praised science writer Shelley Emling shows how Marie Curie was nothing short of an iconoclast. Her affair with a younger and married man drew the enmity of a xenophobic French establishment, who denied her entry to the Academy of Sciences and tried to expel her from France. But she was determined to live life how she saw fit, and passed on her resilience to her daughters. Emling draws on personal letters released by Curie’s only granddaughter to show how Marie influenced her daughters yet let them blaze their own paths. Irene followed her mother’s footsteps into science and was instrumental in the discovery of nuclear fission. Eve traveled the world as a foreign correspondent and then moved on to humanitarian missions.

 Emling also shows how Curie, following World War I, turned to America for help. Few people know about Curie’s close friendship with American journalist Missy Meloney, who arranged speaking tours across the country for Marie and Eve and Irene. Months on the road, charming audiences both large and small, endeared the Curies to American women and established a lifelong relationship with the United States that formed one of the strongest connections of Marie’s life. Without the financial support of American women, Marie might not have been able to go on with her research.

 Continuing the family story into the third generation, Emling also interviews Marie Curie’s granddaughter Helene Joliot-Curie, who is an accomplished physicist in her own right. She reveals why her grandmother was a lot more than just a scientist and how Marie’s trips to America forever changed her. Factually rich, personal and original, this is an engrossing story about the most famous woman in science that rips the cover off the myth and reveals the real person, friend, and mother behind it."

My Two Cents:

Before reading this book, I had very limited knowledge about Marie Curie. I knew that she and her husband were both scientists. I knew she was a woman pioneer with it came to science. I knew she did a lot of important work with radium. I knew that a lot of her research was the basis for a lot of the radiation treatments that are still used today to treat things like cancer. That's about all I knew so it was really interesting to read this book in order to get a better idea of the impact that Marie Curie had as well as who she was as a person.

This book draws a lot on correspondence between Marie Curie and her daughters, one of which became a famous scientist in her own right, which is pretty cool. Although the title is "Marie Curie and Her Daughters," the book really focuses on Marie Curie, mostly in her latter years after she had already become famous for her work, which was just fine with me. Curie was truly fascinating and this book definitely exemplifies this. She fully dedicated herself to science in a world that wasn't really open to her. Women scientists were few and far between back in the day.

One thing that really intrigued me about the book is how ahead of her time Curie was. There are a couple of pictures of Curie in the book at different conferences and meeting other important people and they are all with men. She really was one of the only women in her field, which is really crazy to think about. She definitely paved the way for a lot of women that came after her.

Also, I thought it was sort of interesting how the public, especially the French public in the book seemed to like and dislike her at different times throughout her life. Now France seems all about claiming her as one of their own, even though she was born in Poland. This really illustrates how things can change relatively quickly with time.

This book didn't necessarily satisfy everything that I wanted to know about Marie Curie. It's fairly short and as I said earlier, it only covers the latter half of her life. However, the book definitely whet my appetite to go out and read more about her!



  1. Adding this one to my WishList...sounds soooo good!! Great review!

    1. Thank you! I really, really liked this book! I love when non-fiction is so easy to dive into.

  2. I'm also going to add this to my to-read list! It sounds really intriguing! I know almost nothing about Marie Curie, so why not learn something?

    1. Exactly! I try to read a good mix of fiction and non-fiction so I can learn a little something along the way.


Hi! Welcome to A Bookish Affair. If you leave a comment, I will try to either reply here or on your site!

As of 6/6/2011, this book is now an awards free zone. While I appreciate the awards, I would rather stick to reviewing more great books for you than trying to fill the requirements.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...