The Tenth Muse
By Catherine Chung
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Katherine is an exceptional child with a gift for mathematics. Growing up in the 1950’s her gifts are not always encouraged. Katherine feels different from those around her, not only because she is exceptionally bright, but because her family is different as well. As a young adult she embarks on a quest to solve the Riemann hypothesis- a famous and difficult Mathematics problem. Her journey to solve this problem is at the core of the novel.What did it make me think about?
This novel highlighted the obstacles a smart, ambitious woman would have faced in the world of Mathematics in the early 1950’s.“HERE WAS THE PROBLEM: I WAS AMBITIOUS. I WANTED a career. I wanted accolades and validation. More than anything, I wanted to do something that mattered. At a time when it was unseemly for a woman to want these things (is it really so accepted now?), I wanted them desperately.” This novel is a reminder of how much we owe the actual women who broke down those first barriers.
Should I read it?
This was really almost two different books to me. I struggled through the first half of the book. I did not particularly like Katherine and the plot was did not hold my interest. BUT- it picked up. The second half of the book moved right along.The plot ended up saving this book for me, maybe becauseI never grew to like Katherine- although I did feel for her. I did find the plot predictable at times but I still enjoyed it. The math was interesting as well… This book would make for an interesting discussion- book clubs perhaps?
“But she’d been the one to get married. She’d been the one to have children. And I’d been the one to have the dazzling- by any measure- career. Both our lives, it occurred to me, had come with their own disappointments , their own specific kinds of loneliness.”
“This is, in part, what makes mathematics so powerful- the ability to see the same thing from a different perspective, the ability to see it transformed.”