The Tenth Muse, Chung’s second novel, is an elegant and absorbing fiction, an interlocking set of stories within a complex narrative that never seems convoluted ... Chung’s crystalline prose and narrative control make the loops easy to follow ... Her work radiates a love of the subject [math]. Nevertheless, math would seem to be unpromising territory for fiction. After all, the discipline’s proofs and problems are all but impossible to explain to a non-specialist ... She uses mathematics mostly as metaphor. Her real subject, beyond the magic of storytelling, is the problem of identity, as shaped by gender, ethnicity, history and choice.
Filled with lovely prose, The Tenth Muse manages to remain an intimate story while going through a sweeping history ... The way that Chung marvels at the power of science and math in describing the natural world entranced me. By using Katherine’s journey of identity Chung also lends that power a warmth that I don’t usually see, as it is so personal ... The Tenth Muse is a very satisfying and overall excellent read. It gave me a lot to think on as well as be inspired by (I’m writing this review on my break from an internet rabbit hole of women mathematicians) and I was very disappointed when it was over.
...a sweeping tale of identity, gender and genius ... 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.
... works best in its first half, when Katherine is still operating in the dark. As the explanations of her past come to light, Chung sometimes grows clumsy or cursory in the way she uses Nazi-era horrors to illuminate Katherine’s personal odyssey. She does better with the bracing input Katherine gets from women in her field ... At its best, The Tenth Muse astutely parses those layers of overt and covert narrative that shape its narrator’s life.
Even readers who don't recall their own math classes will get the mathematical references woven seamlessly into Katherine's emotional memories ... Readers who enjoyed The Only Woman in the Room will appreciate this intelligent novel ... [a] powerful historical novel[.]
... a deft, elegant style that instantly captivates the reader ... In the hands of a lesser author, the narrative strains would struggle to cohere, but Chung manages her plots and subplots with the precision of a mathematician meticulously piecing together different parts of a puzzle ... The title, and short prologue, are a nod to the book’s wider achievement in mixing fiction with historical fact ... 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 ... The thriller aspect that develops later on in Bonn – involving a notebook of equations and some dodgy academics – doesn’t quite come together but it is a minor criticism in a book whose vast capacity for knowledge and wonder is skilfully transferred to the reader. The retrospective narrative works a treat in this instance, like listening to a wise old sage divulge not just the mysteries of mathematics but of life itself.
The Tenth Muse will shake your views on female success in male-dominated work sectors and make you see the bigger picture. Here is a novel that is so real it hurts at times ... not a smooth, easy-going, light novel. It brings the reader on the bumpy hard path of truth and sacrifice, blood ties and betrayal, human injustice and forgiveness ... Chung carves out a beautiful tribute to female mathematicians...She exposes their challenges and sacrifices clearly, and celebrates their achievements through the eyes of Katherine, who is deeply indebted to their works ... reminds us of the great injustices done to women in a male-dominated world.
Chung's development of key characters is strong, her light prose flows easily throughout, and she successfully represents a young woman attempting to find her identity and stand out in a field dominated by men. Yet while the narrative is engaging, the plotlines run in varied directions as the mysteries behind Katherine's heritage start to unfold, and Katherine's voice could have been stronger and more inspirational ... Though perhaps too tidy and underdeveloped, this work has merit and will appeal to individuals looking for a breezy summer read over more realistic fiction.
Mathematics and its history, the legacy of WWII, and the struggles women face in pursuing academic success, especially in fields dominated by men, are woven into this novel that Chung...renders in polished prose.
Chung’s novel, with its formality and clean chronology, seems a throwback to another time, like a perfectly tailored tuxedo. But that’s perfect for a memorable character like Katherine, whose belief in what she has to offer the world, and in her place in the lineage of women 'who chose a different path,' never wavers. A powerful and virtuosically researched story about the mysteries of the head and the heart.
Chung’s impressive, poignant second novel ... 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.