Love and the Dead Scientist

“Do you know why you’re afraid when you’re alone? I do. I do.” Vincent Gray

I have recently read 2 novels, both of which had romantic elements and both of which had the female protagonist conducting an imaginary relationship with a dead scientist.

Both books had a great plot, were well written and were engaging but I had trouble dealing with the dead scientist conversation. It was odd. It didn’t sit right with me. I phoned my scientist sister and asked her if she knew any of her male/female scientist counterparts who talk to their imaginary hero/mentor/role model. She told me she was busy and not to bother her with ridiculous concepts. I took this to mean “No”.

The language in Addition by Toni Jordan captured me. The heroine has OCD and is constantly counting. This agitated me but rightfully so as it was able to make me, the reader, understand how the protagonist feels. The protagonist also spends a lot of her time relating her actions back to Nikola Tesla. The dead scientist dialogue is as odd as the rest of the book but it all makes sense as you near the end. The romantic lead totally enamoured me. I liked that he is fashion-challenged, seriously – he wears boaters, and I liked his patience and steadfastness!

In Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey the letter writing to a dead scientist seemed out of place for me. The various storylines worked well and I would recommend this book but I struggled with the concept of a teen finding solace in an imaginary relationship with Richard Feynman. This would ring alarm bells as to my child’s sanity. Nonetheless, the relationships in this book are wonderful and I adored the beautiful ending.

Having come across two Australian publications with a similar premise I hope that this is not going to become a favourite storyline. To me, it made no sense and it detracted from two books that would have otherwise been great. I understand that I am supposed to suspend disbelief and somehow relate to different peoples’ experiences but does anybody know anyone that has enriching and enabling conversations with dead scientists, teachers, Kennedys…..anyone other than the kid from The Sixth Sense?

2 thoughts on “Love and the Dead Scientist

  1. The way you’ve described Tangey’s book sounds like a YA twist on Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty– with romance and teen angst. It’s a fantasy romance without paranormal elements. Isn’t romance supposed to be about the fantasy? Would you have felt different if Feynman had been a ghost a la Patrick Swayze in Ghost? You’ve got me thinking about the way kids relate to what they read and what they find appealing in a character. If you’re worried about sanity, I think an imaginary relationship with Feynman might have been a healthier option for Donnie Darko and Holden Caulfield in Catcher Rye.

    • @Oldbitey As I haven’t read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (and my memories of the movie are vague at best) I can’t compare them. The relationship the main character has with Feynman is a letter writing one and though I love epistolary novels, this was not a comfortable letter writing exercise. I was confused as to why she didn’t keep a diary. The online/offline aspect was explained early in the book and was understandable. As to whether I would have felt differently if it was Ghost – I don’t think so. It wasn’t a fantasy (oh! and the romance is not with Feynman but with a school mate) and was very much set in reality.

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