Half Life by Jillian Cantor. (2021).
**4.5 out of 5 stars**
Poland, 1891. Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a budding mathematician, Kazimierz Zorawski. But after 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 went on to change the course of science forever and became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. But what if she had made a different choice? What if she had stayed in Poland, married Kaz, never went to Sorbonne or discovered radium? What if she chose a life of domesticity instead of studying science in Paris and meeting Pierre Curie?
I found this novel really gripping and compelling. Having recently watched and enjoyed the film Radioactive (2019) about Marie Curie, I was intrigued by this book’s synopsis. I thought the sliding-doors concept was clever and absorbing; the storylines delve into Marie’s real story and then also explores what life could have been like if she had married Kaz. I think one can’t help but admire Marie Curie; she was a fiercely intelligent and forward thinking woman. In this book, Marie and Marya are strong, smart women and readers will appreciate both storylines. I appreciated that the book wasn’t science heavy and while it did have mentions of science (obviously), it was in simple enough terms that I think most readers will be able to understand what is being discussed. The focus of this novel is more on Marie/Marya as women; the choices they make or that are forced upon them, finding a place in a time where educated women were not supported and balancing family and career aspirations.
Overall: I highly recommend this historical fiction that will draw you in from the beginning and won’t let you go until the very end.