What I read on my autumn vacation: my friends’ books

Both of these books were written by friends whom I adore, but I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t enjoy them.

First, Marie Curie and Her Daughters by Shelley Emling is a revelatory account of the life of one of the most celebrated scientists of modern times. But it’s also the story of a family, and of the two daughters who went on to earn their own accolades – including her oldest child Irene’s Nobel Prize.

I was fascinated by Curie’s love affair with America, and the story of how the women of the United States rose to the challenge of raising enough money to purchase Marie a gram of radium, one of the elements she discovered. (The other was polonium, named after her home country, Poland.) At the same time, Shelley describes how Curie was maligned for years in France, and how her reception in American forced the public in her adopted homeland to give her (some of) her due.

This book made me cry – a lot. It’s beautiful.

Second, my friend Ashley Prentice Norton‘s debut novel The Chocolate Money was one I found almost impossible to put down. It’s somewhat autobiographical, though Ashley says 80% of it is pure fiction. The narcissistic, self-absorbed, neglectful mother will ring true to anyone who’s been similarly afflicted – even if your mother isn’t an heiress like the one in The Chocolate Money. I was reminded of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, though this is told from a completely different perspective. I failed to sleep on the flight to Paris because I couldn’t stop reading this book.

Love these ladies, love their books, can’t recommend them highly enough.