Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking

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Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stacey Barkley
Reviewed by Stacey Barkley
Summary: Candidly honest, this is an open reflection on a marriage that unravels, but of a love that is changing and lasting regardless.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 487 Date: December 2014
Publisher: Alma Books
ISBN: 978-1846883668

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Travelling to Infinity maps the tapestry of a rich and complex life.

Jane Hawking, the first wife of acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking, reveals the inner-workings of their life together. Reflecting on the meteoric rise of her husband alongside his physical deterioration, she charts the path of their marriage and family throughout the highs and lows of their circumstance. As asserted by the author herself this story could indeed belong to any English family of the era. What sets this one apart, however, is the fame and publicity of one family member, the widely celebrated, Stephen Hawking.

We meet the pair as young undergraduates, at which point Stephen Hawking had just received a diagnosis of motor neuron disease. While young love brought the pair together, Jane recalls her commitment to stand by Stephen in marriage, defiant and determined to fight on in spite of the life sentence they thought had just been dealt. While Stephen proceeds to defy medical opinion a void begins to appear. Their initial youthful optimism gives way to two very different methods of coping. While Jane, in light of his deterioration, wishes for openness and discussion, Stephen largely refuses to recognise the difficulties posed by his illness. As his fame grows his needs accumulate to more than she alone can manage and her family situation becomes increasingly strained. What entails is a psychologically fascinating account of a marriage as it gradually unravels, and of love in changing forms.

Compelling in her honesty, Jane does not shy away from revealing the difficult details. She writes openly of the struggle undertaken to hold her family together under difficult circumstances. She points to the massive disconnect between their private and the public image and the difficulties this created. She is openly critical of others where she feels this is due, and rightly so, this is after all her memoir.

And while a memoir can present just one account of a story, this is one well worth hearing. Self-reflective and open one can’t help but become emotionally involved. Having met Jane at the outset as a young optimist keen to travel the world, and brimming with plans and aspirations, her sacrifices are great in living entirely for her marriage and family. The young adventurer is worn down by experience, which is most apparent and poignant in her developing a fear of flying, a sure sign that her adventurer's wings had been clipped. At its core this is an account of a woman who has lost herself amid her sacrifices. When everything falls apart and her marriage collapses, the ultimate challenge for Jane is to re-find and to re-learn herself – and this makes for a read that is happy and sad and funny and frustrating all at once.

Vibrantly written the characters come to life within the pages, and it becomes all too easy to grow attached to the Hawking clan. For while stories of love, marriage and children are as old as time, this one moves far beyond that delving into the undercurrents and idiosyncrasies of the personal relationships that make up our families and close circles.

That life is an unexpected journey and that perseverance pays off is very much the take home message of this account.

If this book appeals then you might also like to try The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.

Buy Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything by Jane Hawking at Amazon.com.


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