Her Hidden Genius: Book summary and reviews of Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict

Her Hidden Genius

A Novel

by Marie Benedict

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict X
Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict
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About this book

Book Summary

Marie Benedict's powerful new novel shines a light on a woman who sacrificed her life to discover the nature of our very DNA, a woman whose world-changing contributions were hidden by the men around her but whose relentless drive advanced our understanding of humankind.

Rosalind Franklin has always been an outsider―brilliant, but different. Whether working at the laboratory she adored in Paris or toiling at a university in London, she feels closest to the science, those unchanging laws of physics and chemistry that guide her experiments. When she is assigned to work on DNA, she believes she can unearth its secrets.

Rosalind knows if she just takes one more X-ray picture―one more after thousands―she can unlock the building blocks of life. Never again will she have to listen to her colleagues complain about her, especially Maurice Wilkins who'd rather conspire about genetics with James Watson and Francis Crick than work alongside her.

Then it finally happens―the double helix structure of DNA reveals itself to her with perfect clarity. But what unfolds next, Rosalind could have never predicted.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Before reading Her Hidden Genius, had you heard of Rosalind Franklin? What, if anything, did you know about the history of DNA, and how did the book affect your understanding of that history?
  2. Compare Rosalind's experiences in France to her experiences in England. What was the biggest difference you noticed between each culture's expectations for scientists and women?
  3. Rosalind asserts early on that marriage and science are not meant to coexist for working women. Do you think that idea is a product of her time period, or her personality? Does she reevaluate it throughout the book, and if so, how?
  4. How does Rosalind's Jewish identity shape her behavior and priorities throughout the book? How are she and her family still contending with the events ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Her Hidden Genius:

Are you familiar with others from history whose contributions are only now being recognized?
Yes! Currently Arnold Schwarzenegger has been on cable news talking to Russians and letting them know of the lies the Russians are using to justify the war in Ukraine. But the first person that came to mind was Hedy Lamar whose contribution to ... - irisf

Before reading Her Hidden Genius, had you heard of Rosalind Franklin? What, if anything, did you know about the history of DNA, and how did the book affect your understanding of that history?
I had never heard of her, but DNA is discussed in so many tv shows and the kind of books I prefer (crime and court procedurals) that it seems to be fairly well known. Too much scientific stuff in this book for me. - diannea

Collaboration in science is crucial, so how should collaborative projects proceed in a fair fashion, and how should credit be assigned for those discoveries?
Collaboration is crucial, its important that those that work on the project to each put in the same amount of time to the development. Credit is given to all members of the team. Funding for these projects is always a constant issue. - dorothyh

Compare Rosalind's experiences in France to her experiences in England. What was the biggest difference you noticed between each culture's expectations for scientists and women?
It seems that in France, it didn't matter so much if you were male or female. If you were a good scientist and researcher, there was a place for you. In England, it seemed that things were more competitive, and at least in some of the ... - scottishrose

Do you think that Rosalind's opinion that marriage and science are not meant to coexist for working women is a product of her time period, or her personality?
I think that Rosalind was a woman and was Jewish played a huge part in her opinions. However, I think the biggest thing was that she was a very dedicated scientist. Being raised in a family filled with scientist and engineers, they tend not to be ... - leeb

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Dr. Rosalind Franklin, whose pivotal role in the discovery of DNA was overlooked, gets her due in Benedict's scholarly novel." - Kirkus Reviews

"As she does so well, Benedict again illuminates an overlooked female historical figure, accessibly highlighting Franklin's scientific achievements and also depicting some of her personal life." - Library Journal

"Benedict adeptly brings forward another accomplished, intriguing, and unjustly overlooked or oversimplified real-life woman in a welcoming and involving historical novel." - Booklist

"Much has been written about the real Franklin, and unlike Benedict's other fictional chronicles of historical women, this doesn't add a whole lot to the story." - Publishers Weekly

"Marie Benedict has a remarkable talent for forcing open the cracks of history to draw extraordinary women into the sunlight. In Her Hidden Genius, Benedict weaves together molecular biology and human psychology to bring vivid life to Rosalind Franklin, whose discovery of DNA's exquisite double-helix structure takes on the narrative intensity of a thriller. Fans of historical fiction will devour this complex portrait of a brilliant and trailblazing genius and the price she paid to advance the frontiers of science." - Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Our Woman in Moscow

"Marie Benedict does it again, pulling another brilliant woman out of the shadows of history into an illuminating portrait for posterity. This eye-opening novel deftly explores the life of Rosalind Franklin--the wronged heroine of world-changing discoveries--and her singular pursuit of science. Educational and astounding. Brava!" - Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America's First Daughter

"What an important book this is. Through Marie Benedict's trademark insight and immersive historical research, Rosalind Franklin and her extraordinary legacy are beautifully restored to public recognition. So brilliantly sketched is this brilliant woman that you will find yourself both infuriated by the misogynistic battles she faces and inspired by the intellectual achievements she manages to secure regardless. A must-read for anyone interested in science or forgotten heroines." - Kate Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Radium Girls and The Woman They Could Not Silence

"Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Her Hidden Genius is a remarkable story of strength, perseverance, and achievement. Marie Benedict once again shines a light on women in science, vibrantly bringing Rosalind Franklin's genius to life in the pages of her novel." - Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of Half Life

"Marie Benedict has given us an immense gift: a peek into the inner world of Rosalind Franklin, one of the most brilliant--and overlooked--scientists of her time. Her Hidden Genius describes the discovery of DNA in exquisite beauty, weaving the structure of the double helix effortlessly into a poignant and compelling narrative. This is Benedict's best work yet, a book that will break your heart, rattle your expectations, and ultimately leave you stunned by the sacrifices one woman made for science." - Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls

This information about Her Hidden Genius 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.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Phyllis

Outstanding
I had long been aware of Rosalind Franklin and her contribution to the 'discovery' of DNA, but this book clarified her pivotal role as well as providing an understanding of the woman herself. Benedict made the complex science of x-ray crystallography understandable for even a non-scientist. I have recommended it to all my friends, particularly those interested in the often-neglected area of women in science.

Charlene McSweeny

Her Hidden Genius
Marie Benedict has written another book about outstanding women who have been overlooked by our male dominated history.
Dr. Rosalind Franklin has discovered, through hours of tireless research, the double helix structure of DNA.
"Her Hidden Genius" relates how a brilliant woman scientist struggles to have her work recognized by her male colleagues and the scientific community.

FrancesN

Rosalind Franklin
I first became aware of Rosalind Franklin, during college studying for a degree in Biology, with a special interest in genetics. Because of that, I read James Watson's The Double Helix and became incensed with his portrayal of Dr. Franklin. Subsequently, I read Ann Sayre's Rosalind Franklin and DNA.
This current work of fiction is an interesting look at a genius in her field at a time when women were just beginning to have a role, but no respect, in the sciences.

Rutheh

Great Female Scientist
A fictional history about Rosalind Franklin, a scientist who discovers the components of DNA. She is very brilliant yet constantly challenged by her male colleagues for her work. The time period is 1947 through 1958, a time when women were not recognized for the scientific contributions to society. Rosalind travels between Paris and London and 3 major research institutions to try to accomplish her goal, to map DNA. This storyline is amazing, but be prepared for some slow, repetitive information that can bog one down. I am a huge fan of Marie Benedict and love and respect the research and time it takes to put together her wonderfully creative stories. Can't wait for the next one! Thank you, BookBrowse, for another good book to read!

CarolT

Good history
Follows along in Benedict's usual course - good history, but so-so characters. I'm really interested in Rosalind Franklin, but Benedict's version is a flat, uninteresting woman who did remarkable things. There are hints Franklin was a more rounded woman, but I'll have to go to actual biographies for that. A novel should bring her out.

SBS

Fact or Fiction?
Story was an intriguing one but much of the writing felt made up ,some of which to make the story more exciting.
Marie Benedict is a well know best seller author.
A good read but honestly not riveting to me

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Author Information

Marie Benedict Author Biography

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in history and art history and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare; and under her own name, a narratively connected series of historical novels starting with The Other Einstein, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein's first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. Benedict lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Author Interview
Link to Marie Benedict's Website

Other books by Marie Benedict at BookBrowse
  • The Personal Librarian jacket
  • The Mystery of Mrs. Christie jacket
  • Lady Clementine jacket
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