Katy Guest at The Guardian:
The first page of Howard Markel’s comprehensive history The Secret of Life reads like the opening scene of a movie. “On February 28, 1953, shortly after the chapel bells struck noon, two men hurtled down a stairwell of Cambridge University’s Cavendish Physics Laboratory. Bursting with exhilaration, they had just made the scientific discovery of a lifetime … ” Delving into the human lives and relationships behind “the race to unravel DNA’s structure”, the book frequently zooms in on such visual details, from the “crusty yellow remains” of fried egg at Francis Crick’s breakfast table to the “clickety clack” of Rosalind Franklin’s heels echoing “on the slick, wet marble floor” of King’s College London.
A movie needs a hero and a villain, and in this story they are Franklin – brilliant, female, Jewish, misunderstood – and James Watson, whose “mean-spirited” 1968 memoir “commandeered the historical record with boundless guile and cunning”.