Book Review: “Travelling To Infinity”

travelling to infinity

One book which has been gathering dust on my shelf is “Travelling to Infinity” by Jane Hawking.

The book, an account of Jane and Stephen Hawking’s life together, was initially published in 1999. When it was made into a film (“The Theory of Everything”) in 2014, the book was re-released with an updated postlude.

Many may have seen the film adaptation starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen and Jane Hawking. While the film is a fascinating account of their lives together, the book goes far deeper.

One definite plus of the series of lockdown restrictions in place of late is having more free time to get into it!

A thorough timeline

Jane Hawking states that, while publishers chased her for an autobiography for a long time, it took her years of processing her marriage before she could put pen to paper.

The result, which is just shy of 500 pages, covers the highs and lows of the Hawkings’ marriage comprehensively.

It begins in 1962, when Stephen briefly attended St Albans High School For Girls.

The book takes readers through Jane and Stephen’s early romance as university students, and his diagnosis with motor neuron disease at the age of 21.

It covers their wedding and their travels as Stephen became a prominent academic. It also details their family life, with their three children.

Finally, it tells of their struggles as Stephen’s health declined.

A natural writer

Being an academic herself, with a PhD in mediaeval Spanish poetry, Jane Hawking’s writing is rich and descriptive.

She is both honest and measured in her account of life with her first husband. She speaks of him affectionately, and communicates her heartbreak as their marriage broke down.

Jane carries the reader through finding her feet as a new wife — with big responsibilities — at the age of 21, and bringing up children while caring for her husband with great resilience.

The story of their unique and extraordinary marriage is captivating and moving.

And by the end I felt I knew her very well, having shared in her joys and struggles.

The science of the book

The autobiography not only provides an insight into the Hawkings’ family life, but the ground-breaking science which was unravelling in the background.

Having worked as his typist for many years, Jane knew Stephen’s research inside out, and talks us through the evolution of his theories in an accessible manner.

While I don’t often read autobiographies, I would highly recommend this one, which tells a truly remarkable story.

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Mairi Hughes