Madame Curie revolves around Marie Sklodovska, a brilliant but timid girl with deep emotions and a passion for work. Her father, Vladislov Sklodovski, is a solemn and meticulous mathematics and physics professor. Although poverty forces him to take in boarders, he creates an intellectual atmosphere for his children, teaching them to love literature and knowledge. His children adore him. Marie’s mother is beautiful, well educated, and high-spirited, but seriously ill with tuberculosis; she dies when Marie is ten years old. Marie also loses her oldest sister, Zosia, who dies from typhus.
Marie’s dearest friend is her sister Bronya, an intelligent and understanding girl. Insisting that Bronya attend medical school, Marie works as a governess under unhappy circumstances to support her sister’s education. After years of waiting, feeling depressed and “stupid,” and struggling to save money, Marie finally joins Bronya in Paris to pursue her own education.
As a university student, Marie is driven by the thirst for learning. She lives in isolation and poverty, forgetting to eat or to carry in coal to heat her room. After graduating with high honors, she remains in Paris and marries Pierre Curie, a great and dedicated scientific researcher. Energetic and restless, Pierre finds it difficult to be away from the laboratory. He adamantly believes that a true scientist should not be interested in competition and honors. Marie and Pierre work together on the study of radiation, receiving the Nobel Prize for physics for their efforts, and despite their personal wishes, they become worldwide celebrities.
The Curies have two daughters. The older, Irene, shares her parents’ fascination for research, studies in Marie’s laboratory, and earns her own Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work on radioactive elements. Like her mother, she marries a scientist-Frederic Joliot. Her younger sister, the vivacious Eve, loves music, literature, and beautiful clothing and surroundings more than she loves and understands science. While her mother encourages her individuality, Eve often feels lonely and different.
Another significant character in the book is Mrs. William Brown Meloney, an American reporter who launches a national campaign to purchase radium for Marie’s use. She also organizes a tour to bring Marie and her daughters to the U.S.
Madame Curie stresses the themes of dedication, determination, and reverence for knowledge. It illustrates the author’s conviction that a person’s talent and ability should be used to make the world a better place-a conviction that affirms self-sacrifice and humility. The book asserts the importance of academic and political freedom while showing how the pride and love of a family can nurture success and greatness.