Half Life: Book summary and reviews of Half Life by Jillian Cantor

Half Life

by Jillian Cantor

Half Life by Jillian Cantor X
Half Life by Jillian Cantor
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Book Summary

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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Reality and speculation merge to provide a look at Marie Curie, Nobel Prize–winning scientist, and the person she might have become if she'd made different choices...wonderfully executed...Thought-provoking, skillfully written, and hard to put down." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[F]ascinating...vivid historic background...Strong secondary characters contribute to the lively story lines. Fans of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life will want to take a look." - Publishers Weekly

"Cantor has created an absorbing biographical novel and performed an engaging riff on the 'what if' ponderings we all experience." - Booklist

"Jillian Cantor's beautifully written Half Life is a poignant exploration of ambition, family, gender, and love. I couldn't put down this tender, nuanced, and inspiring novel. This is a book for anyone who's ever been torn by conflicting passions and loyalties; in other words, this is a book for all of us. A dazzling must-read." - Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation

"In her riveting new novel, Half Life, Jillian Cantor explores not only the fascinating inner life of the famous scientist Marie Curie but also the life that might have been if she'd chosen love over science in her early years, a determination that would have irrevocably altered the face of science and history. This thoughtful, compelling story delves into issues faced by modern women, while inviting readers to ruminate on their own life choices and the domino-effect of those decisions." - Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of Lady Clementine and The Only Woman in the Room

This information about Half Life was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Jillian Cantor Author Biography

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. She is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eleven novels for teens and adults, which have been chosen for LibraryReads, Indie Next, Amazon Best of the Month, and have been translated into 13 languages. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cantor currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Link to Jillian Cantor's Website

Other books by Jillian Cantor at BookBrowse
  • The Hours Count jacket
  • Beautiful Little Fools jacket
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