The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington

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The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This sophisticated tale certainly packs a powerful punch. As if Einstein was not enough, Sington opens up the whole debate about insanity.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099535799

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This story is set in the time of Hitler's rise to prominence in Germany so, not surprisingly, there is a generous helping of political activity. There is no doubt this novel is slick and very stylish. The arresting book jacket promises a lot - and it delivers.

The two central characters are (and we've come across it many times before) a psychiatrist (in this case Kirsch) and his patient (known as the Einstein Girl) and hence the novel's title. The case of this girl is intriguing, not least because both doctor and patient had accidentally met prior to her admission to hospital. Kirsch appears immediately smitten - which may be a problem. He's already spoken for. In a nutshell, the Einstein Girl has lost her memory. Kirsch finds more and more of his professional time given over to her recovery, back to mental well-being. It becomes a long and complicated journey, for both of them.

Almost straight away the reader is introduced to the rather cold but well-ordered German institution where Kirsch seems to work round the clock. Treatment methods which will probably make you flinch are described matter-of-factly.

The aloofness and thinly-disguised superiority of the German people at this crucial point in their history are ever present in this novel.

Sington gives us many pages describing, in sometimes meticulous medical detail, madness; insanity in humans. He finishes off a particularly distressing paragraph by saying insanity generally: a kind of leaving. I thought that last phrase particularly poignant, allowing virtually no hope for the family of the 'mad' individual. But we come to see that Dr Kirsch is a rather sensitive man who tries to do his level best for all of his patients. It cannot be easy. He also has his own personal problems to bear. His daily routine is relentless. His work is not universally appreciated by his peers. Psychiatry is not seen as a 'true' science. In fact, even more worryingly, many diagnoses differ, depending on which psychiatrist is in attendance.

Whereas, the eminent Albert Einstein grapples successfully with a proper science.

The progress (or otherwise) of these parallel situations is extremely interesting, both for the reader and for many of the novel's characters. There is a powerful statement from Kirsch's brother when he's talking about the great, the one and only, the revered Einstein. Two thousand years of religion and two hundred years of science ... demolished in a single equation. What a sentence to mull over.

Everything surrounding the enigmatic Einstein Girl is complicated and complex. Kirsch seems determined to get to the bottom of things, but his personal feelings for her only get in the way, muddy the waters. He doesn't need further complications in his already complicated life. But he is the ultimate professional ...

Sington's plot is excellent and clever. At times I was reminded that it was similar to, for example, a bit of Hitchcock for the suspense element and a bit of Agatha Christie for the intrigue and possibly foul play element. I loved it. It is most certainly a page turner par excellence.

I think what struck me overall, as a reader, was the sheer time, effort and physical hours of dedicated work and research into the workings of the human brain. Equally, you get a sense of the dogged single-mindedness of Einstein himself, working towards his own goal. The true elements in Sington's novel give that little edge of gravitas (not that it needs it) to the story. This novel has undisputed style.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might enjoy Missing by Karin Alvtegen.

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Buy The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington at


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