by Catherine Chung

Never mind the Amazon description for this book, it is a quote by Manuel Gonzales that best describes The Tenth Muse, a book “about mathematics and identity, and the cost of being a talented and ambitious woman in a world preoccupied with male success.”

When I read books about strong women, I am often reminded of the opening quote in the movie Eat, Pray, Love that goes something like: “I have a friend, a psychologist, who was asked if she could offer counseling to Cambodian refugees who had suffered genocide, starvation, years in refugee camps. So guess what all these people wanted to talk about…It was all, “I met this guy in the refugee camp. I thought he really loved me, but when we got separated… he took up with my cousin. Now he says he loves me…and keeps calling me. What should I do?”

“This this how we are,” Liz Gilbert concludes in her movie voice-over. And indeed, this is how we are. Talent and ambition mixed with a never-ending need to find a love connection — for better or for worse.

It works, mostly, in this novel about a brilliant mathematician in the 1950s who is betrayed over and over again by the men in her life. Still, she creates a legacy for herself based on good work, solid deductions, and admirable persistence. “The tenth muse gave up everything to claim her own voice,” explains protagonist Katherine, “In my life, I had almost always chosen the path of the tenth muse—my work, my own vision, had always been my priority.” It is that path I found most inspiring in this intriguing historical narrative. — JEN PAYNE

BUY NOW:The Tenth Muse


An exhilarating, moving novel about a trailblazing mathematician whose research unearths her own extraordinary family story and its roots in World War II.

From the days of her childhood in the 1950s Midwest, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem. As she matures from a girl of rare intelligence into an exceptional mathematician, traveling to Europe to further her studies, she must face the most human of problems—who is she? What is the cost of love, and what is the cost of ambition? These questions grow ever more entangled as Katherine strives to take her place in the world of higher mathematics and becomes involved with a brilliant and charismatic professor.



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