Science Novel Critique

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict tells the story of Rosalind Franklin, an unsung hero of science who braved the storm of gender bias to map the structure of DNA, despite constant harassment and undermining in the late 1940s and 1950s. As an X-ray crystallographer, Franklin battled not only the complexities of scientific discovery but also the demeaning attitudes of her male colleagues in academia. Despite her pivotal contributions, the theft of her work shadowed her achievements by other scientists who later won a Nobel Prize.

Benedict, who has a knack for bringing the stories of overlooked women in history to light, paints Franklin as a tenacious and intelligent trailblazer. However, despite the interesting subject, I found the novel somewhat lacking.

The narrative focuses too much on scientific details, which, while enlightening, often felt like a slog through dense academic articles rather than a novel. I skipped sections that delved too deeply into the minutiae of experiments and theories, longing instead for more exploration of Franklin’s personal life and relationships outside her lab work.

Another aspect that struck a discordant note with me was the repeated emphasis on Franklin’s secular views. The repeated emphasis on Franklin’s secular views struck a discordant note with me, as I believed there were many other facets of her character and achievements that could have been highlighted instead.

The presence of several grammatical errors in the eBook version was distracting and gave the text an unpolished feel. This wasn’t an advance reader copy where I could overlook such issues, and they certainly detracted from my reading experience.

While Her Hidden Genius shines a light on an important but neglected figure in science, the execution was not as successful as I had hoped. I rate this book 3.5, rounded down to 3.

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