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Half Life

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The USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time reimagines the pioneering, passionate life of Marie Curie using a parallel structure to create two alternative timelines, one that mirrors her real life, one that explores the consequences for Marie and for science if she’d made a different choice. In Poland in 1891, Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a bud The USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time reimagines the pioneering, passionate life of Marie Curie using a parallel structure to create two alternative timelines, one that mirrors her real life, one that explores the consequences for Marie and for science if she’d made a different choice. In Poland in 1891, Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a budding mathematician, Kazimierz Zorawski. But when his mother insisted she was too poor and not good enough, he broke off the engagement. A heartbroken Marya left Poland for Paris, where she would attend the Sorbonne to study chemistry and physics. Eventually Marie Curie would go on to change the course of science forever and be 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 Kazimierz at the age of twenty-four, and never attended the Sorbonne or discovered radium? What if she had chosen a life of domesticity with a constant hunger for knowledge in Russian Poland where education for women was restricted, instead of studying science in Paris and meeting Pierre Curie? Entwining Marie Curie’s real story with Marya Zorawska’s fictional one, Half Life explores loves lost and destinies unfulfilled—and probes issues of loyalty and identity, gender and class, motherhood and sisterhood, fame and anonymity, scholarship and knowledge. Through parallel contrasting versions of Marya’s life, Jillian Cantor’s unique historical novel asks what would have happened if a great scientific mind was denied opportunity and access to education. It examines how the lives of one remarkable woman and the people she loved – as well as the world at large and course of science and history—might have been irrevocably changed in ways both great and small.


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The USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time reimagines the pioneering, passionate life of Marie Curie using a parallel structure to create two alternative timelines, one that mirrors her real life, one that explores the consequences for Marie and for science if she’d made a different choice. In Poland in 1891, Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a bud The USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time reimagines the pioneering, passionate life of Marie Curie using a parallel structure to create two alternative timelines, one that mirrors her real life, one that explores the consequences for Marie and for science if she’d made a different choice. In Poland in 1891, Marie Curie (then Marya Sklodowska) was engaged to a budding mathematician, Kazimierz Zorawski. But when his mother insisted she was too poor and not good enough, he broke off the engagement. A heartbroken Marya left Poland for Paris, where she would attend the Sorbonne to study chemistry and physics. Eventually Marie Curie would go on to change the course of science forever and be 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 Kazimierz at the age of twenty-four, and never attended the Sorbonne or discovered radium? What if she had chosen a life of domesticity with a constant hunger for knowledge in Russian Poland where education for women was restricted, instead of studying science in Paris and meeting Pierre Curie? Entwining Marie Curie’s real story with Marya Zorawska’s fictional one, Half Life explores loves lost and destinies unfulfilled—and probes issues of loyalty and identity, gender and class, motherhood and sisterhood, fame and anonymity, scholarship and knowledge. Through parallel contrasting versions of Marya’s life, Jillian Cantor’s unique historical novel asks what would have happened if a great scientific mind was denied opportunity and access to education. It examines how the lives of one remarkable woman and the people she loved – as well as the world at large and course of science and history—might have been irrevocably changed in ways both great and small.

30 review for Half Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terrie Robinson

    "Half Life" by Jillian Cantor is a creatively and uniquely written Historical Fiction novel! It's 1891 in Szczuki, Poland when Marya Sklodowska is told by her fiancé, Kazimierz Zorawski, his parents will not allow them to marry. They feel Marya will never amount to anything, she is not good enough for their scholarly son. He tells her it is not his choice, they will disown him. He breaks their engagement! Marya is crushed! She leaves immediately, returning to her father's house in Warsaw feeling "Half Life" by Jillian Cantor is a creatively and uniquely written Historical Fiction novel! It's 1891 in Szczuki, Poland when Marya Sklodowska is told by her fiancé, Kazimierz Zorawski, his parents will not allow them to marry. They feel Marya will never amount to anything, she is not good enough for their scholarly son. He tells her it is not his choice, they will disown him. He breaks their engagement! Marya is crushed! She leaves immediately, returning to her father's house in Warsaw feeling worthless and abandoned. After several weeks, Marya's father tells her she is going to Paris! He has enough money saved to finance her trip and first year studies at the Sorbonne. Going to Paris to study at the Sorbonne has been Marya's dream. She has been saving her wages from working at the Zorawski home as the governess of Kaz's younger siblings. Then she fell in love with Kaz. Now she can begin her dream.... While waiting for the train to Paris, Kaz reappears and begs Marya not to leave but to stay in Poland and marry him. Marya has to make a choice. She looks from Kaz, then back to her frowning father. Marya wants to attend the university in Paris, but she also wants to be with the man she loves. "You have a choice. There is always a choice." Thus begins the "What Is" and "What If" dual lives of Marya Sklodowska: The "What Is" scenario is the life of Marie Curie who leaves for Paris. The "What If" scenario is the life of Marya Zorawski who remains in Poland. This story is told in alternating chapters by protagonists Marya and Marie in their first person voices. Both characters are well developed, engaging and believable. They are so similar in their desire for learning and yet so different in how they live their lives. Each has regrets and ponders what would have happened if the alternate choice had been made. I love the Author Notes at the end of this book stating the Marya chapters were completely fictional but the Marie chapters were based on Marie Curie's life, as well as the people around her. The results of Jillian Cantor's diligent research creates a vivid picture of Marie Curie, bringing her to life for the reader. This story is creatively and uniquely written. It captured my interest immediately and I didn't want it to end. I highly recommend it to those who love Historical Fiction or those who love learning about historical figures in a unique way. Thank you to Goodreads, Harper Perennial and Jillian Cantor for a free ARC of this book. It has been my pleasure to give my honest and voluntary review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Maria (pronounced Marya) Sklodowska before she became Marie Curie and before she left Poland for France, she was in love with Kazimierz Zorawski. And this story explores what-if… she stayed in Poland with her first love by inventing a fictional character of Marya Zorawski. In parallel stories, we also get to know the real story of Marie as a scientist working with her husband Pierre Curie. Poland, 1891. Maria from early age knew that being mother wasn’t meant for her. Her “mind ached to learn.” A Maria (pronounced Marya) Sklodowska before she became Marie Curie and before she left Poland for France, she was in love with Kazimierz Zorawski. And this story explores what-if… she stayed in Poland with her first love by inventing a fictional character of Marya Zorawski. In parallel stories, we also get to know the real story of Marie as a scientist working with her husband Pierre Curie. Poland, 1891. Maria from early age knew that being mother wasn’t meant for her. Her “mind ached to learn.” And in Russian Poland women were not allowed to study. She is heart-broken when things don’t work out with the love of her life. But her father reminds her about her brilliant mind and that she needs to use it. The word – Sorbonne – is “like a confection for my mind, and my body hummed, alive again…” Then the story splits into imagined and real… At Sorbonne Marie excels. She is first in her class in physics examination. She is awarded the prestigious Alexandrovitch Scholarship. But she needs a lab to progress with her studies. And that’s when she gets introduced to Pierre Curie, who has a lab and is willing to share it. He is the first man, who genuinely is fascinated by Marie’s work in physics and not looking down at her as other men. The fictional character of Marya is very interesting too. She is very ambitious in furthering her education. But in Russian Poland women are not allowed to study. So it means that she needs to be part of Flying University – an underground educational initiative. It comes with risks of being discovered. And her husband is more concerned with her safety than with what she craves from life. In this fictional story, I loved the atmosphere of women gathering together and learning from each other and finding comfort in each other. In the real story, I loved the equal partnership between Pierre and Marie. He highly respects her as a scientist, thus they are equal partners in the lab. But he also craves to be equal partners in private life, forever. And the support of her father, who was a teacher himself and believed in education and that women were as capable as men to gain education. That is very touching, the support and encouragement of a parent. And later having a respectful partner. In both stories, the character of Marie is well-developed. She is hungry for knowledge and it is well-explored. With having very little money or none, she cares for clothes to cover her and not how she looks. What she cares about is her hungry mind, which she wants to feed with knowledge, experiments, and meaningful conversations. The writing is very engaging. Every word and every sentence matter and are significant. The great skill of writing shines constantly, for example as chapters alternate regularly between two Maries, in the real one Pierre dies because of an accident with a horse drawn carriage and in fictional story there is a different outcome. It contrasts effortlessly with different outcomes. Thus, exploring human nature of questioning what-if I did this and that differently. My favorite part is when physics gets mixed with marriage proposal. It made me smile. As Pierre keeps proposing marriage to constantly declining Marie, he almost convinces her with “lodestone, the most magnetic of all the materials (…). The magnet cannot stay away…” This story brings an incredible journey of Marie Curie, who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and to teach at Sorbonne among other accomplishments. And a richly imagined story of Marie, who picks love over studying at Sorbonne as she believes she can also achieve that in her native country with a bit more difficulty. Wonderfully dimensional characters that engage from the first pages. Writing that evokes time and place. How challenging it was for a woman to be smart and smarter than some men. Or to live in a country that forbade women to study. A spellbinding story with brilliant writing and amazing talent in crafting such an intriguing and inspiring story. A few years ago, I was searching for a novel about Marie Sklodowska Curie. What a pleasure it was to see this book and by an author I’m familiar with and enjoy her writing. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    This was such a good read, extremely hard to put down and had me quite emotional a few times during the book. It’s the story of Marie Curie’s life alongside the possible life she could’ve lived if Marya Sklodowska had never left Poland and married her first love, Kazimierz Zorawski. The couple were engaged but his mother didn’t approve of Marya and in real life a year or so later she leaves Poland to study in Paris. The book is narrated in the first person, and the two streams (half lives?) altern This was such a good read, extremely hard to put down and had me quite emotional a few times during the book. It’s the story of Marie Curie’s life alongside the possible life she could’ve lived if Marya Sklodowska had never left Poland and married her first love, Kazimierz Zorawski. The couple were engaged but his mother didn’t approve of Marya and in real life a year or so later she leaves Poland to study in Paris. The book is narrated in the first person, and the two streams (half lives?) alternate chapter by chapter. I thought the author did this skilfully and I was involved in the characters lives in both halves. It’s well researched and it must’ve been hard to keep the alternate life believable but it works. The difficulties for women to study and work in these times is well explored, across time and countries. The difficulties of maintaining balance between family life and work especially for driven scientists like Curie; the sexism of the scientific community whether it be universities or even the Nobel prize (Pierre refused to accept unless Marie also got it) is astonishing but not surprising. It is hard to read of all their experiments with radioactive materials completely unprotected without being horrified (Pierre gives Marie a radium nightlight!). It is unsurprising how much their health suffered. An excellent, informative and emotional read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    I was so excited to learn that Jillian Cantor had written a new book and that it was being offered in a give away. Lucky for me, I was one of the lucky winners to receive a copy of her new book, Half Life. It was a compelling book about Marie Curie’s life as it actually occurred and one that could have been if she had made other choices. This unique exploration of Marie Curie was brilliant and so thought provoking. What would have happened to science and the world at large if Marie Curie had cho I was so excited to learn that Jillian Cantor had written a new book and that it was being offered in a give away. Lucky for me, I was one of the lucky winners to receive a copy of her new book, Half Life. It was a compelling book about Marie Curie’s life as it actually occurred and one that could have been if she had made other choices. This unique exploration of Marie Curie was brilliant and so thought provoking. What would have happened to science and the world at large if Marie Curie had chosen love over science? Jillian Cantor masterfully wrote Half Life in alternating time lines. One mirrored Madame Curie’s real life and the other followed a “what if” scenario. I did not know a lot about Marie Curie’s life, other than her significant contributions to science and mankind. Her story was both intriguing and inspiring. The characters in the book were complex and multi dimensional even in the imagined part of the story. Half Life spoke a lot about the challenges women faced during Marie Curie’s life. The writing and research in this book was significant and brilliant. I really enjoyed reading Half Life by Jillian Cantor and highly recommend it. Thank you to Harper Perennial for allowing me to read this advanced readers copy of Half Life through Goodreads.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl James

    I had no idea what this book was about. I totally selected it by the cover, but wow i am so glad that i did. The first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in the late 1800's for radiation which is still used in the cure of cancer. Marie and her husband were both brillant scientists. The author told the story of her life and also told the story of what her life may have been had she took a different path. Once i started the book i took a profound interest in it. In addition to the book i saw the movie I had no idea what this book was about. I totally selected it by the cover, but wow i am so glad that i did. The first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in the late 1800's for radiation which is still used in the cure of cancer. Marie and her husband were both brillant scientists. The author told the story of her life and also told the story of what her life may have been had she took a different path. Once i started the book i took a profound interest in it. In addition to the book i saw the movie on primetime called, Radioactive, I loved the movie as well. Not sure why the author felt a need to give her opinion on what Marie Curie's life would have been like but I'm glad she did. I too thought about my life, WHAT IF I....

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I received this novel as an ARC thanks to Harper Perennial, Jillian Cantor, and Goodreads. Thank you for the opportunity to read this novel. This will be the least profound thing I can say... READ THIS BOOK! Seriously, this novel is beautiful, interesting, well researched, and different! What do I mean by different? How many WW2 fiction novels can you find? Now, how many historical fiction novels about the spectacular Marie Curie can you find? Exactly. This is a gem. I love historical fiction. I I received this novel as an ARC thanks to Harper Perennial, Jillian Cantor, and Goodreads. Thank you for the opportunity to read this novel. This will be the least profound thing I can say... READ THIS BOOK! Seriously, this novel is beautiful, interesting, well researched, and different! What do I mean by different? How many WW2 fiction novels can you find? Now, how many historical fiction novels about the spectacular Marie Curie can you find? Exactly. This is a gem. I love historical fiction. I love even more when something besides WW2 catches my interest and this novel did just that. I was captivated. Jillian Cantor did a phenomenal job switching between her two main character versions (Marie and Marya). Without giving you all spoilers, Cantor gets it down to the most minute detail. Before I was even done I was texting friends that I know who love historic fiction telling them to add this to their list. Ok, ok... Nothing is perfect so if I had to give you all one thing I wasn't particularly a fan of it would be the portrayal of the version of the actual Marie Curie as a mother. Now, let me say that this could be entirely accurate, I don't know. As a reader, I felt it was overly noticeable and sometimes made me wish the other version was the real one. But alas, then where would we be? This tiny tidbit that I didn't care for though did also spur me to want to read more about Marie Curie. Any book that incites me to delve further into something is a win. I love being left with wanting to know, learn, and read more. Jillian Cantor has herself a 5 star novel!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Half Life by Jillian Cantor is an excellent historical fiction novel that is so unique that it kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Ms. Cantor took the typical dual timeline novel and added a new spin that is the first book of its kind that I remember ever reading. The task of not only writing about the fascinating and riveting life of Marie Curie, but to take a pivotal point in her young adult life, where her affections for the eldest son of the family that she was employed as a governess w Half Life by Jillian Cantor is an excellent historical fiction novel that is so unique that it kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Ms. Cantor took the typical dual timeline novel and added a new spin that is the first book of its kind that I remember ever reading. The task of not only writing about the fascinating and riveting life of Marie Curie, but to take a pivotal point in her young adult life, where her affections for the eldest son of the family that she was employed as a governess were severed after pressure from his mother on ending their relationship due to her “lowly station”, and create a separate path to her life of what if is amazing. The author interweaved what we knew of Ms. Curie’s life with what her life could have been like if things took a different route at that pivotal moment (staying as Marya). She then gives the reader a breathtaking picture of changes great and small that might have occurred if that path was chosen. To be able to take this abstract idea, give it life, and also make it enjoyable, is nothing short of impressive. Even the title is great: dual meanings with the plot and also the half life of radium, too creative. This book was a joy to read and will stay with me for a long time. Brilliant. 5/5 stars Thank you EW and William Morrow for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    When I was in fifth grade, we had to do a biography project. We picked a biography of a historical figure and then had to do a presentation on it for class. I chose Marie Curie for this project. I enjoyed learning about her as she was fascinating and inspiring. However, I only got the basic information about her life story from the age-appropriate biography I read. So I really had no idea what her life was actually like until I read Half Life this past month. Jillian Cantor has written an exquis When I was in fifth grade, we had to do a biography project. We picked a biography of a historical figure and then had to do a presentation on it for class. I chose Marie Curie for this project. I enjoyed learning about her as she was fascinating and inspiring. However, I only got the basic information about her life story from the age-appropriate biography I read. So I really had no idea what her life was actually like until I read Half Life this past month. Jillian Cantor has written an exquisite piece of historical fiction! This novel was incredibly well-written and engaging throughout. I liked the Sliding Doors aspect a lot and also seeing how situations ran parallel or eclipsed between the two timelines. While the novel was long (over 400 pages), it was so interesting that the length didn't matter. I was worried that so much was happening in the first half that there would be nothing else to tell, but there was a lot more to Marie's life than I ever knew. My only issue (and this is very minor) is that it was hard to cast as a movie since it went through so many years and the characters aged a lot. I can picture Tiera Skovbye as a young Marie/Marya though. I think Jillian and Renee Rosen should pair up to write a novel sometime. They'd be a powerhouse team. I highly recommend that you pick up this novel and devour it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    I love historical fiction that leaves me hungry for more information, researching the truth behind the story. Half Life is such an enchanting read. I did a session a few weeks back which gave me the opportunity to hear Jillian Cantor talk about this sliding doors tale of the life of Marie Curie. What a remarkable life, the product of the choices this brilliant scientist made. There is always a choice, as Marie affirms in this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Arna

    I learnt a lot from this one but the pacing didn’t work for me. Full review soon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Mussell

    Jillian Cantor has a way of storytelling that grabs your attention. The concept of Half Life is like brain candy to the reader. The similar events that occur in both lives create such a-ha moments. 5 stars!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    I really wish people writing about music and musicians had actual musicians read their work before publishing it. Most orchestras don't call the pianist the "principal piano," and being the pianist for an orchestra does not mean playing non-stop piano concertos with said orchestra. Not every piece is a "song." Not every musician has or needs perfect pitch, and having it doesn't automatically make you a good musician. Now that I have that off my chest: this novel fictionalizes the life of Marie C I really wish people writing about music and musicians had actual musicians read their work before publishing it. Most orchestras don't call the pianist the "principal piano," and being the pianist for an orchestra does not mean playing non-stop piano concertos with said orchestra. Not every piece is a "song." Not every musician has or needs perfect pitch, and having it doesn't automatically make you a good musician. Now that I have that off my chest: this novel fictionalizes the life of Marie Curie and, in parallel, imagines a life for her--as Marya--had she not gone to Paris to study when she did. The author is clearly trying to create numerous parallels between these two lives, including having Marie's sister Helena marry Jacques Curie in the version where Marya stays in Poland. Because of this very tight connection between the parallel worlds, though, the story is restricted in imagination and originality. The storytelling is a bit heavy-handed: it's obvious from the start that Marya's husband will cheat on her with Leokadia; that Marya will return to him; that Marya and Pierre Curie will feel attracted to one another; that the real-life affair between Marie and Paul Langevin will be mirrored by Pierre and Jeanne Langevin; and so on. Ultimately, the novel is a bit of a slog with few rewards.

  13. 4 out of 5

    The Cats’ Mother

    I’m not sure what it means when the best thing about a book is its title. Half Life combines a first person fictionalised biography of famous Polish scientist Marie Curie, with a speculative look at how her life would’ve turned out had she followed her heart not her head, and married her first love instead of moving to Paris for her career. I wanted to like this, I really did, but the Sliding Doors approach did not work for me and this was a slog from start to finish, and had it not been a NetGa I’m not sure what it means when the best thing about a book is its title. Half Life combines a first person fictionalised biography of famous Polish scientist Marie Curie, with a speculative look at how her life would’ve turned out had she followed her heart not her head, and married her first love instead of moving to Paris for her career. I wanted to like this, I really did, but the Sliding Doors approach did not work for me and this was a slog from start to finish, and had it not been a NetGalley read I would’ve abandoned it. In 1891, young governess Marya Sklodowska, the youngest daughter of a widowed scholar who has fallen on hard times, faces a choice. Standing on a station platform in Russian-controlled Poland, is handsome would-be mathematician Kazimierz Zorawski, who pulled out of their engagement because his parents’ disapproval, but has now changed his mind. Will she follow her dream of becoming a scientist in France, or stay behind for love? Half Life explores the consequences of both choices in alternating chapters. Marie goes on to meet Pierre Curie, discover radioactivity and win Nobel prizes, while Marya, longing for education herself, gets to watch family members succeed while she devotes her life to raising her daughter. This was an interesting idea, and I welcomed the chance to learn about the world’s most famous female scientist, but to be honest I would’ve been better off just reading Wikipedia (as did the author, it would seem.) The dual timelines just got really confusing as Marie & Marya meet people who are often quite different, and not just because of her role in their lives, like Pierre - dashing successful scientist in one life, kindly dreamer in the other. Characters die in one life, but survive in the other, and I had to keep checking whose story it was, and reminding myself who was married to whom, to keep their stories straight. The narration varies between present and past tense for both voices, infuriatingly inconsistently, and in both timelines our protagonist is deeply unpleasant - self-absorbed, arrogant, judgemental and careless of others’ feelings, so I found it hard to see what attracted any of the various men who fall in love with her. I wanted to read about Curie’s scientific discoveries, the main appeal of the book for me, but these are glossed over, with a leap forward in time any time something interesting happens, in favour of more angst about her romantic and family relationships. The sexism and misogyny that both versions had to overcome were an important part of the story and reminded me of how much we now take for granted. The effects of radiation on both Marie and Pierre’s health, obvious with modern knowledge, were sad to read about, although her wilful blindness to the dangers in pursuit of her obsession with her discovery despite warnings from various sources meant I lost sympathy. I also got tired of the massive chips she carried on both shoulders about the way she was treated, by Kazimierz’s parents, then by the friend she betrays, and then by the press. I didn’t need her to be all sweetness and light but she behaves as if she’s the only one to experience devastating losses. At the time of writing this has mostly 4 and 5 star reviews, so I’m clearly an outlier and if the synopsis appeals then I would definitely still try it - it’s well written (apart from the tense issues). I did learn something about the history of Poland and a little about the discovery of Radium, but it took me a long time to finish because I was so bored so it might depend what kind of books you prefer. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc which allowed me to give an honest review. Half Life is published today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tanja ~ KT Book Reviews

    Ah, the real and fictional romantic story of Marie Curie's life. I have heard of her, but never really knew much about her. Other than she is the first woman to receive two Nobel Prize awards in her field. Marie Curie is also remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. It's an honor to know a woman was celebrated in the early 1900's. It was very much a male-dominated field and time. Half Life by Jillian Cantor is a "what if" or Ah, the real and fictional romantic story of Marie Curie's life. I have heard of her, but never really knew much about her. Other than she is the first woman to receive two Nobel Prize awards in her field. Marie Curie is also remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. It's an honor to know a woman was celebrated in the early 1900's. It was very much a male-dominated field and time. Half Life by Jillian Cantor is a "what if" or a "what could have been' scenario. For fans of science and the people who work in it, that like a bit of fun fiction thrown in to add levity, I have no doubt you'll enjoy this read. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the amazing Marie Curie. ~Tanja *ARC Provided by Publisher Follow me on Instagram✿Twitter✿Facebook✿Pinterest✿

  15. 5 out of 5

    Addie BookCrazyBlogger

    Her birth name was Marya Sklodowska. Her name in history is known as Marie Curie. What follows is a fictionalized account of her life-both in her career as a scientist and in the path not taken, as wife to Kazimierz Zorawski. In the path not taken, Marya features as wife to a budding mathematician and whose own academic career falters. Instead of moving to Paris, she focuses on building her marriage and on secretly educating women in Poland, even as her own family life falters. The novel’s secon Her birth name was Marya Sklodowska. Her name in history is known as Marie Curie. What follows is a fictionalized account of her life-both in her career as a scientist and in the path not taken, as wife to Kazimierz Zorawski. In the path not taken, Marya features as wife to a budding mathematician and whose own academic career falters. Instead of moving to Paris, she focuses on building her marriage and on secretly educating women in Poland, even as her own family life falters. The novel’s secondary perspective focuses on Marie’s actual life, as she pursues science, discovers new elements and falls in love with her husband Pierre. I think what I found the most fascinating about this novel was how radiation poisoning effected both Marie and Pierre years before they realized what was happening, especially after a little extra research I did myself. I also thought it was fascinating to see the role that fate played in the Mayra half of the book. I was absolutely riveted by this book: none of the choices that Marie/Mayra made were easy. I found the general theme, that women struggle to have it all, to be prevalent even in today’s society. I honestly really loved this book and Marie/Mayra’s distinctive voice throughout the novel. It truly was a joy to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Thank you Goodreads Giveaways for the ARC! I loved this beautifully written story - the parallels of Marie’s story and her “imagined” life are so interestingly interwoven and heartbreaking on their own way. There’s so much I didn’t know about Madame Curie’s life and this engrossed me in her story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    My book club received advance copies of Half Life by Jillian Cantor through Galley Match in exchange for honest opinions. I loved it and would highly recommend it. The book poses the question: what if Marie Currie had married Kazimierz Żorawski, her first love, rather than going to the Sorbonne in Paris. The chapters alternate between her real life and what her life might have been. It was very thought provoking and made me wonder how my life would have been different if I had taken a different My book club received advance copies of Half Life by Jillian Cantor through Galley Match in exchange for honest opinions. I loved it and would highly recommend it. The book poses the question: what if Marie Currie had married Kazimierz Żorawski, her first love, rather than going to the Sorbonne in Paris. The chapters alternate between her real life and what her life might have been. It was very thought provoking and made me wonder how my life would have been different if I had taken a different path at any point in my life. At book club it was very interesting to hear such different opinions. Four of us loved it, some were ho hum, and others were not a fan. Those who loved it admired her determination, passion, focus and achievements as a scientist. Those who did not, felt she was a cold egocentric individual and a detached mother. To me this makes this book a great choice for a book club because people had very different opinions and were able to discuss and consider different points of view.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carla Johnson-Hicks

    So, let me start that I am definitely bucking the trend with this book. I found it very hard to get into. It was just a bit too strange for me. Half Life combines a fictionalized biography of scientist Marie Curie, with a speculative look at how her life would’ve turned out if she had married her first love instead of moving to Paris for her career. I wanted to like this, I really did, but the Sliding Doors approach with parallel stories happening did not work for me and it took me a long time t So, let me start that I am definitely bucking the trend with this book. I found it very hard to get into. It was just a bit too strange for me. Half Life combines a fictionalized biography of scientist Marie Curie, with a speculative look at how her life would’ve turned out if she had married her first love instead of moving to Paris for her career. I wanted to like this, I really did, but the Sliding Doors approach with parallel stories happening did not work for me and it took me a long time to get through it. I almost DNFed a couple of times. In 1891, young governess Marya Sklodowska, the youngest daughter of a widowed scholar who has fallen on hard times, is engaged to Kazimeirz Zorawski. He bows to his parents pressure and breaks off the engagement, rather than be disinherited. When he changes his mind, she has a decision to make; follow her dream and head to Paris to become a scientist or remain in Poland with her fist love. Half Life explores the consequences of both choices in alternating chapters. In real life, Marie goes on to meet Pierre Curie, discover radioactivity and win Nobel prizes, while Marya, longing for education herself, gets to watch family members succeed while she devotes her life to raising her daughter. This was an interesting idea, but it didn't work for me. I tried listening to the story, I tried reading the story, but it just didn't work for me. The dual stories got confusing when a person died in one story, but was alive in the other. To make it more confusing for me, the narration jumped between the past and present in both Marie's and Marya's stories. As I said, I am in the minority for this one, so if the synopsis appeals to you, give it a try, you may just love it. The audiobook was narrated by Cassandra Campbell and she did a great job with the voices and accents. I certainly enjoyed her narration even if the book did not appeal to me. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and ideas shared are my own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This story is told in alternating chapters of Marie Curie’s true life story as opposed to the path her life might have taken if she had made one decision differently when she was young. Both stories were spellbinding. I learned a lot about her real life, and the imagined trajectory was a plausible alternative. The same true-life characters turned up in both stories, but they didn’t always play the same role or have the same effect on Curie. Because of the repetitive characters in both stories an This story is told in alternating chapters of Marie Curie’s true life story as opposed to the path her life might have taken if she had made one decision differently when she was young. Both stories were spellbinding. I learned a lot about her real life, and the imagined trajectory was a plausible alternative. The same true-life characters turned up in both stories, but they didn’t always play the same role or have the same effect on Curie. Because of the repetitive characters in both stories and the way the real and imagined chapters alternated, it was somewhat difficult to recall what Curie’s situation was in each timeline. Each new chapter required you to reset back into that timeline. That did nothing to take away from the overall impression of the book though. It was hard to put down.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ash Luna

    I won a Goodreads giveaway for this book, and man oh man was it an amazing way to start my reading list for 2021. Half Life is utterly stunning with its sharpe turns and delicate emotion written into about every page. The book is based of Marie Curie the first woman to ever win the Noble Prize. She is not only intelligent but someone who is just a strong willed woman who longs for what ever woman longs for love and passion. This book has some non fiction and fiction as it tells her real story and I won a Goodreads giveaway for this book, and man oh man was it an amazing way to start my reading list for 2021. Half Life is utterly stunning with its sharpe turns and delicate emotion written into about every page. The book is based of Marie Curie the first woman to ever win the Noble Prize. She is not only intelligent but someone who is just a strong willed woman who longs for what ever woman longs for love and passion. This book has some non fiction and fiction as it tells her real story and a story of what could have been. Jillian writes about the life of Marie Curie as she found her way thru her life in Paris meeting the love of her life and making astounding scientific findings along the way. Than she writes of what could have happened if Marie chose another path in life by her given name Marya who becomes a house wife standing by her husband while her intelligent mind is held back from all the greatness it could be giving the world beyond her. The love story that Jillian has written in the could have and the fictional real lifes of Marie/Marya is phenomenal.She intertwines main characters in a way that I have not read before.The fact that she could keep up with the names and emotions of each character in different time lines and stories is AMAZING. I was in aww of how she kept the love interests Kazimierz and Pierre in both stories and it was so dynamic of how she written them in to Marias/Marya lifes. I have to say this book is A MUST READ book for 2021 I have a great feeling inside my gut this will be a best seller and will have woman like myself enamored by Jillian Cantors writing and also Marie Curies life!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    "It is strange how life has a way of being terrible and wonderful all at once." This book is an absolute must-read. Half-life is a beautifully written, brilliant, and fascinating book! I feel like Marie embodies what being persistent is.🥺Also, her bravery and ambition just so remarkable✨ She is really an inspirational woman whose love for science is just out of this world. You could see how science was just her everything even at her lowest moments all she could think about was her lab/experiment "It is strange how life has a way of being terrible and wonderful all at once." This book is an absolute must-read. Half-life is a beautifully written, brilliant, and fascinating book! I feel like Marie embodies what being persistent is.🥺Also, her bravery and ambition just so remarkable✨ She is really an inspirational woman whose love for science is just out of this world. You could see how science was just her everything even at her lowest moments all she could think about was her lab/experiments that she has to work on. Half-life is about sisterhood, friendship, loss, love, and I would add being tenacious. This book made me so emotional because some things that happened just broke my heart especially knowing a part of this book is nonfiction.🥺Pierre(He's my favorite character besides the main character). In both timelines, Marie/Marya’s life was full of tragedies, but you could see the same perseverance and ambitions were present. Personally, I feel like this book was also educative on a certain level like I did not know anything about Marie Curie nor that she was a real person. Through this book I learned things like she was the woman who discovered radioactivity (x-ray) and that she was also the first woman to win the noble prizes in physics/chemistry (like wow that's mindblowing). Do you know how smart and hard-working someone has to be to win that? and twice? a woman at that? in this period of time. She is just like a role model for women. We can do anything if we put our minds to it. I will absolutely read more of Jillian Cantor’s books. Some quotes I liked from the book. "There was a choice. There was always a choice." "I believed in science, in making our own choices." Thanks to Harper Perennial and the author for the gifted copy!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette Lewis

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Publishers Simon and Schuster for this advanced electronic copy to review and comment on. 1934 Marie is an old woman with failing eyesight and physicality, now bedridden, with her daughters, Ìrene and Ève her carers. With nothing much else to do she reminisces and daydreams. Within only a few pages the reader will know who this remarkable woman is that forms the main character of this book. The author however, to give a special twist has created a "sliding doors" or al Many thanks to Netgalley and Publishers Simon and Schuster for this advanced electronic copy to review and comment on. 1934 Marie is an old woman with failing eyesight and physicality, now bedridden, with her daughters, Ìrene and Ève her carers. With nothing much else to do she reminisces and daydreams. Within only a few pages the reader will know who this remarkable woman is that forms the main character of this book. The author however, to give a special twist has created a "sliding doors" or alter ego effect for which gives an alternate story to the actual life led, that runs in parallel, a story of a choice that many women make, love over a career. The actual historical woman did the opposite, she chose learning, discovery and a career over love, that did happen and with her husband, together they made remarkable discoveries with Marie becoming one of the most famous women in history. A visitor from her youth arrives and with this the story goes back to 1891, Marya Żórawska (Skłodowska), a young woman. Poland, a country until relatively modern times, has had a pretty checkered past and has been ruled by many different countries and it is at this time that Warsaw is under Russian rule. Marya's parents have been well off but due to their political dissent their fortunes are now limited. Her father teaches mathematics and physics for which Marya follows in his footsteps. Sadly, at only a young age Marya's mother dies leaving her father with five children to raise. Władysław Żórawska (Skłodowska) for his era and probably due to the fact that he was well educated encouraged his children to pursue higher learning. However, under Russian rule a university education for women was against the law, fiercely enforced. Not to be outdone, women formed what was called a "flying university" for which small classes were held by like minded young women in secret and at different locations for each class. In order to help support the family and to save money to go to Paris where she can attend university Marya becomes a governess to a wealthy family, the Żorawskis. She falls in love with their son Kazimierz but with strong objections from his parents and the threat of being disinherited, he calls off his relationship with Marya. Broken hearted and with lingering depression, her father drags her out of bed and informs her that he is sending her to Paris to start university. Standing on the train making her farewells Kazimierz rushes through the crowd and tells Marya of his regret and change of mind and pleads with her to stay with him and not go to Paris. From here on the two stories are told, Marya who goes to Paris where she becomes known as Marie and Marya, who gets off the train to be with Kazimierz. The two stories are equally beautiful and as comprehensive as each other. Marya and Kazimierz marry, he is disinherited and life is a struggle for them. Their first child dies but later a daughter is born for which Marya devotes her life to. Along with like minded young women, they form the "flying university" where Marya makes life long friends, one, a talented pianist, Kadi being held back by her father. She will betray Marya by having an affair with Kaz but she will also take her artistic daughter under her wing to further her music career. Marya and Kaz get through their struggles with Kaz taking up a good position through Kadi's influence with her father, a prominent mathematician who gives Kaz a job as his assistant eventually taking over Hipolit's research on his death and Marya able to pursue a scientific career be it different to the alternate Marie in France. The alternate Marya called by the French name of Marie stays on the train for Paris and while living with her sister is introduced to many people, one of whom is Pierre Curie. They make a formidable couple. The rest is history. Marie Curie becomes one of the most prominent scientists in the world. The only woman to receive two Nobel Prizes for two different scientific categories. The Nobel Prize also goes to Pierre. Marie also plays a vital role in developing the first ever mobile X-ray machine that assisted doctors during WW1 in determining damage and injury done to soldiers. The author creates the story around Marie Curie giving a loving human side to this woman who, like many with such a high intellect, probably thought on an alternate level and totally absorbed with her work, not necessarily very maternal. Pierre was the love of Marie's life and when he was killed through an horrific accident, it took a long time for her to once again pull herself out of depression. She also travelled to the United States where she was received as a celebrity and where the money was raised for her to buy Radium. Marie and Pierre had two daughters, the eldest following in their footsteps as a scientist and was her mother's assistant after the death of their father. Her daughter Ève was not interested in science and became a concert pianist amongst her other very colourful careers and who went to live in the United States.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Talia Carner

    I've long been an admirer of Madame Curie, and whenever asked about a female role model, I spoke about her and the determination to overcome everything stacked against brilliant women then (and of course, even now.) I was delighted that Jillian Cantor took on the task of taking me into the fictional story of this extraordinary woman based upon her remarkable real life and world, where I got to know the person--her passions and even shortcomings. But the author also did something else: Talking the I've long been an admirer of Madame Curie, and whenever asked about a female role model, I spoke about her and the determination to overcome everything stacked against brilliant women then (and of course, even now.) I was delighted that Jillian Cantor took on the task of taking me into the fictional story of this extraordinary woman based upon her remarkable real life and world, where I got to know the person--her passions and even shortcomings. But the author also did something else: Talking the reader to that crossroad, that moment in time when a young woman facing the great unknown makes another decision--a crucial one for her life and, in this case, for humanity. Instead of going to Paris and pursue university studies unavailable to women in Poland, she stays behind, giving her heart and her life to the man she loves. How believable it is! How banal for a young woman to choose romance! From that point on, that alternate story reminds the reader what an ordinary life Marya could have lived, struggling in Poland with both economic hardships and a lifelong frustration when her brilliant mind finds no outlets of learning and developing.... And far away is the man, Pierre, whom she can't have, whose scientific career is stalled. In real life Marie, as she is called in France, married him and together she and Pierre went on to win the Nobel Prize (and she won a second one after his early death.) Immaculate research of early 1900s Poland and Paris--and the science behind not only Marie Curie's work but that of her colleagues--left me in awe. A well-written and researched novel that opens so many points of discussion. I'm recommending it for book clubs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Britt's Book Blurbs

    Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. I found this book absolutely fascinating. Alternating chapters contrasted Marie Curie's actual life with an imagined version of what could have been had she stayed in Poland and gotten married. I enjoyed both versions and found the alternating chapters worked well to tell an overall story of feminism in science. I didn't know much about Marie Curie so the Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. I found this book absolutely fascinating. Alternating chapters contrasted Marie Curie's actual life with an imagined version of what could have been had she stayed in Poland and gotten married. I enjoyed both versions and found the alternating chapters worked well to tell an overall story of feminism in science. I didn't know much about Marie Curie so the chapters relaying her actual life, with some artistic license, were incredible. The amount of work she completed, constantly fighting against society and her peers to be taken seriously and to be allowed to do what she loved is awe-inspiring. In the other chapters, I appreciated Cantor's imagined life for Curie. She showed that Curie likely would have faced a lot of the same struggles as a woman who felt a strong push to be educated and to educate others. Without a formal education, living in near-poverty, she never truly gave up on her dream - she just had to face a lot more obstacles. It was interesting to see the same characters showing up in both worlds, often with very significant differences. Overall I was caught up in this story and appreciated this unique perspective on Curie's life and her contributions to the world. Blog | Bookstagram | Ko-fi | Reddit | Twitter

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Samuelson (BookAddict30)

    Rating: 5 Stars!! (Wish i could rate it 10 Stars!!) Review: Thank you to Goodreads and Harper Perennial Publishers for picking me to win this free ARC Copy in a giveaway last month, i really loved this book so much!! This book was based on the Actual life story about Marya Sklodowska AKA Marie Curie, famous Polish/French Phyicist with a little Fiction thrown in about what would of happened if she had married her 1st Fiance Kazimierz Zorawski instead of going to France to pursue a career in Psyic Rating: 5 Stars!! (Wish i could rate it 10 Stars!!) Review: Thank you to Goodreads and Harper Perennial Publishers for picking me to win this free ARC Copy in a giveaway last month, i really loved this book so much!! This book was based on the Actual life story about Marya Sklodowska AKA Marie Curie, famous Polish/French Phyicist with a little Fiction thrown in about what would of happened if she had married her 1st Fiance Kazimierz Zorawski instead of going to France to pursue a career in Psyics and married Pierre Curie. The Characters were so interesting to read about and The Setting discription of Poland and France made me feel like i was read there in the story with Marie!! This is my all time favorite Historical Fiction Book of 2021 so far!! Can't wait to read more by this author in the future!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Thank you to the The Book Club Cookbook #GalleyMatch and @harperperennial for an advance copy of Half Life. Have you wondered how your life would have turned out if you had chosen a different path at a key point in your life? Jillian Cantor choose to portray the inner life of Marie Curie by relating her real story and a fantasy version of what might have been through alternating chapters. As a reader you will quickly adapt to the style of story writing. You might consider reading each story sepa Thank you to the The Book Club Cookbook #GalleyMatch and @harperperennial for an advance copy of Half Life. Have you wondered how your life would have turned out if you had chosen a different path at a key point in your life? Jillian Cantor choose to portray the inner life of Marie Curie by relating her real story and a fantasy version of what might have been through alternating chapters. As a reader you will quickly adapt to the style of story writing. You might consider reading each story separately, but I found the suspense of waiting a chapter to continue each story line held my attention and made the book more enjoyable. The book is as much a love story as it is about women's choices and challenges in the early 1900s. There are numerous characters to enjoy, hardships to weep over, and endings you wish would not come.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary Marraccini

    I am truly a fan of the author, Jillian Cantor, and Half Life didn’t disappoint. Seldom, if ever, are we allowed to read the other side of the story - the what ifs. This book provides the opportunity in a unique, parallel manner. How different our world would be had Marie been the fictional character. Most of us know of Marie Curie from our school days. In my opinion, Half Life turned Mme Curie into an amazing, three dimensional woman worthy of being known to all! I will be recommending this to I am truly a fan of the author, Jillian Cantor, and Half Life didn’t disappoint. Seldom, if ever, are we allowed to read the other side of the story - the what ifs. This book provides the opportunity in a unique, parallel manner. How different our world would be had Marie been the fictional character. Most of us know of Marie Curie from our school days. In my opinion, Half Life turned Mme Curie into an amazing, three dimensional woman worthy of being known to all! I will be recommending this to everyone!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elisha Janelle

    “…I wondered if that was true. If no matter what choices we made, what we had and what we were given and what we took for ourselves or not, if there were certain people in our lives who we would find our way to, no matter what.” This was a wonderfully written book!!! I hope one day it’s made into a movie!!!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I really enjoyed this book! It was thoughtful, quick, and bittersweet. It tells the story of Marie Curie's life and the one she might have had if she chose to stay in Poland. I enjoyed it because it was about how we always have a choice in our lives, but each one affects our lives in unknown ways. We all may have lived a different life that we wonder about. This realizes one option for Marie. Despite that, you learn that happiness and fulfillment is also a choice, no matter the life you have. I really enjoyed this book! It was thoughtful, quick, and bittersweet. It tells the story of Marie Curie's life and the one she might have had if she chose to stay in Poland. I enjoyed it because it was about how we always have a choice in our lives, but each one affects our lives in unknown ways. We all may have lived a different life that we wonder about. This realizes one option for Marie. Despite that, you learn that happiness and fulfillment is also a choice, no matter the life you have.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    I really enjoyed the "what if" of this book. How would the world be different if Marie Currie never went to Paris, never discovered Radium, was not the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. It really makes you think. I really enjoyed the "what if" of this book. How would the world be different if Marie Currie never went to Paris, never discovered Radium, was not the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. It really makes you think.

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