In the latest by the author of Forgotten Country, Katherine, a mathematician, is on a quest to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time. When she turns to a theorem with a mysterious history, she realizes that it holds both the lock and key to her identity and to secrets long buried during World War II in Germany.
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.