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The Tenth Muse By Catherine Chung

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

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A brilliant and gripping novel about a young woman's gift for mathematics, and the secret of her past bound up in World War II.

The Tenth Muse Summary

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

The first thing I remember being said of me with any consistency was that I was intelligent - and I recognized even then that it was a comment leveled at me with as much disapproval as admiration. Still, I never tried to hide or suppress my mind as some girls do, and thank god, because that would have been the beginning of the end.

From childhood, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem to be. But in becoming a mathematician, she faces the most human of problems - who is she? What is the cost of love, and what is the cost of ambition?

On her quest to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time, she turns to a theorem with a mysterious history that holds both the lock and key to her identity, and to secrets long buried during World War II. Forced to confront some of the biggest events of the twentieth century and rethink everything she knows of herself, Katherine strives to take her place in the world of higher mathematics, reclaiming the voices of the women who came before her whose love of the language of numbers connects them across generations.

The Tenth Muse is a brilliant, involving novel asking questions about who gets to tell the story of intellectual endeavour, and those who lost everything during World War II.

Praise for The Tenth Muse
'Arresting in scope and its treatment of time, its prose at turns crystalline and richly balletic, this story pulls puzzle from puzzle - human, historical and all too contemporary' Helen Oyeyemi

The Tenth Muse Reviews

Katherine, the narrator of this unusual novel, is an eminent American-Chinese academic fixated on the Holy Grail of mathematics...Chung is smart enough to keep the mathematics to a minimum and concentrate on the human elements in her story: a young woman's battle for acceptance in a male-dominated world; her misadventures in love; and her torturous journey to track down her real parents in Germany * Mail on Sunday, Best New Fiction *
An elegantly constructed puzzle of a novel...what had seemed to be a Hidden Figures-style female-genius-in-a-male-world narrative turns into a thrilling back-to-my-roots mystery * DailyTelegraph *
The 10th muse, in Chung's world, is the one who got away to pursue her own interests and develop her own mind...In young Katherine's love of science and maths, and her yearning for more connection with her mother, there are strong overtones of Jenny Offill's wonderful debut Last Things...A most memorable heroine, a sympathetic, mesmerising voice who tells a deceptively simple story centred on identity and a never-ending quest for knowledge and truth * Irish Times *
A truly spellbinding read * Woman & Home, December Book of the Month *
Ambitious, insightful and distinctive, Chung's latest novel is a beautiful exploration of the human condition . . . a spellbinding read * Woman's Own *
A complex family history, elegant equations, romance and a heroine who refuses to be sidelined in the male-dominated world of mathematics makes this deft novel an engrossing, emotional read...There are betrayals closer to home, too, jeopardising Katherine's career, as love, ambition and intellectual endeavour come into conflict in this smart, satisfying book * Sunday Express *
Katherine looks back at her life in mathematics, a career shaped by her particular time and circumstances in post-war America and Europe. A position that nevertheless speaks all too clearly to our own place and time today. Catherine Chung is brilliant at showing us the forces which either block or encourage Katherine's career * Glasgow Herald *
Not only is the writing dazzling, this intelligent novel about a woman ahead of her time is also a proper page-turner * Good Housekeeping *
Enthralling * Psychologies *
Cleanly feminist-flavoured novel that contains stories within stories in ways that seem to push at the workings of the universe itself * Metro *
A unique and refreshing read * Candis *
[An] affecting tale . . . pleasingly well-crafted * Daily Mail *
The reader's blood boils along with Katherine's. As she fights for recognition, she also embarks on an investigation into her own confused origins...Page-turner, philosophical investigation and statement of intent, The Tenth Muse is an entertaining and provocative contribution to the era of #MeToo * Big Issue *
Katherine is determined to be taken seriously. Here, the novel is most trenchant: in railing against the sexism for so long ingrained in academia...There is no dearth of short-changed women in history - in science or in general. The Tenth Muse is keenly aware of how easily the past can be rewritten, achievements and lives subtracted...A panegyric to women who blaze their own paths, and tell their own stories * New Scientist *

Los Angeles Times * USA Today * O, the Oprah Magazine * Buzzfeed * The Rumpus * Entertainment Weekly * Elle * BBC * Christian Science Monitor * Electric Literature * The Millions * LitHub * Publishers Weekly * Kirkus * Refinery29 * Thrillist * BookBub * Nylon * Bustle * Goodreads

The cliche that boys are better at math collapses before the diamond-hard mind of a grad student whose relentless attempt to prove a legendary hypothesis exposes a deeper algorithm about herself....Chung spins her captivating novel from stories of actual women who, in her words, "posed as schoolboys, married tutors, and moved across continents, all to study and excel at mathematics * O, the Oprah Magazine *
A page-turning intellectual thriller, a family romance, an alternative history of twentieth-century math - I couldn't put it down * Elif Batuman *
The Tenth Muse is as ambitious and intriguing as the complex math problems Katherine, the protagonist of this remarkable novel, aims to solve. In this novel -the scope of which is staggering - Chung has crafted a story that is moving, elegant and richly written. Her prose, as it unfolds, becomes an elusive equation readers will yearn to solve * Roxane Gay *
Ambitious, mesmerizing, and immersive, The Tenth Muse gives us a character we'd follow anywhere, and journeys well worth following her on. This novel dazzles * Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers *
Catherine Chung has written a deft, spellbinding emotional puzzle-box of a book, rich and intricately layered. The Tenth Muse slowly, carefully builds to turn your every expectation on its head, and reading it feels like a glimpse of what mathematics might be in the eyes of its ablest practitioners--both secret and sublime * Tea Obreht *
The Tenth Muse is a must-read. This beautiful, captivating novel has it all: A riveting family secret; a heroine ahead of her time; and a brilliant historical narrative that sheds light on the way we live now * J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions *
A sweeping tale of betrayal, legacy, brilliant women and WWII * USA Today *
Two great enigmas form the center of this elegant novel, in which a brilliant mathematician attempts to solve the impenetrable Riemann hypothesis and learn the truth of her family history. Katherine is the daughter of an American G.I. and a Chinese immigrant who disappears when Katherine is a girl. During her childhood, in the nineteen-fifties, in Michigan, her intelligence and mixed heritage alienate many people, and lead her to wonder 'in each situation whether this time it was my femaleness or my Asianness or the combination of both that branded me different'...In the novel's portrait of her perseverance, it pays moving homage to all the 'unhailed, unnamed' women in history whose talents were dismissed * New Yorker *
The Tenth Muse centers on Katherine, an aspiring mathematician whose studies take her deep into her family history, and a legacy of genius and empowerment which probes compelling questions about her identity * Entertainment Weekly *
Need a metaphor for the unassailable tangle of the self? The Riemann Hypothesis, one of the great unsolved mathematical problems, does nicely in this novel. About 50 years ago, mathematician Katherine was attempting to unpick its knot, and at the same time deal with revelations about her own family heritage * Elle *
Can a mathematician also be an accomplished storyteller? The answer is an emphatic yes.... Elegant and absorbing fiction....Her work radiates a love of the subject....Her real subject, beyond the magic of storytelling, is the problem of identity, as shaped by gender, ethnicity, history and choice * Chicago Tribune *
Reading The Tenth Muse is like setting out on a boat for a short trip and finding the way back barred by waves that grow taller and taller. And then the boat itself turns out to be a riddle; a paper boat, each leaf bound to the other with equations of fearsome beauty. Arresting in scope and its treatment of time, its prose at turns crystalline and richly balletic, this story pulls puzzle from puzzle--human, historical, and all too contemporary * Helen Oyeyemi, author of Gingerbread *
Catherine Chung's first book, Forgotten Country, cut my heart open; I want to read The Tenth Muse right now * R.O. Kwon *
Chung masterfully subverts our expectations... Endlessly thrilling. An exquisite story of legacy, selfhood, survival, and integrity... The Tenth Muse is an inspiring tour de force of STEAM proportions: a riveting intersection of mathematics and art * The Rumpus *
Chung's impressive, poignant second novel explores the intersections between of intellectual and familial legacies...Chung persuasively interweaves myths and legends with the real-world stories of lesser-known women mathematicians and of WWII on both the European and Asian fronts. The legacy that Katherine inherits may defy the kinds of elegant proofs to which mathematicians aspire, but Chung's novel boldly illustrates that truth and beauty can reside even amid the messiest solutions * Publishers Weekly, starred review *
A powerful and virtuosically researched story about the mysteries of the head and the heart * Kirkus, starred review *
Chung uses the history and language of mathematics in The Tenth Muse to explore how the past is inextricably tied to the present. Her writing has a beautiful clarity, and the novel has an epic feel, sweeping between decades and continents without ever losing sight of the human lives at stake. This is a timely story about a woman searching for her identity in an inhospitable environment and emerging scarred but triumphant * BookPage (starred review) *
In this powerful historical novel, a female mathematician recounts the personal and professional challenges of finding her way in a male-dominated field * Shelf Awareness (starred review) *

Katherine looks back at her life in mathematics, a career shaped by her particular time and circumstances in post-war
America and Europe. A position that nevertheless speaks all too clearly to our own place and time today. Catherine Chung is brilliant at showing us the forces which either block or encourage Katherine's career

* Herald *
If you like puzzles, then this mesmerising novel has them all: human, historical and gloriously mathematical. It charts the life of a woman who seeks to conquer the Riemann hypothesis, a quest that could reveal the truth about her own identity and hidden deeds from the Second World War * The Herald *

On discovering that the woman who raised her isn't really her mother, young mathematician Katherine begins looking
for other things that don't quite add up, from unsolved formulas to sexism at her university, MIT. Written in sparse yet
lyrical prose, this is an elegantly constructed puzzle of a novel

* Daily Telegraph *

About Catherine Chung

Catherine Chung is the author of The Tenth Muse and Forgotten Country, for which she won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She has been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, a Granta New Voice and a Director's Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and was the recipient of a Dorthy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in poetry. She has a degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago, and worked at a think tank in Santa Monica before receiving her MFA from Cornell University. She has published work in the New York Times and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Additional information

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung
Used - Like New
Little, Brown Book Group
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
The book has been read, but looks new. The book cover has no visible wear, and the dust jacket is included if applicable. No missing or damaged pages, no tears, possible very minimal creasing, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins

Customer Reviews - The Tenth Muse