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The Tenth Muse

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,764 ratings  ·  693 reviews

An exhilarating novel about a trailblazing mathematician who unearths her own extraordinary family story and its roots in World War II

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 m
Kindle Edition, 285 pages
Published February 2020 by Ecco (first published June 6th 2019)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  3,764 ratings  ·  693 reviews

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chai ♡
Something in my chest that had begun to uncoil days after I read this book seized up again while I wrote this review, as quickly as if someone had held a light to kindling.

There’s a wordless agony to reading stories about women who wanted more freedom than the world wished to give a woman. I often felt myself running with a swift, clear rage—the feeling like the blast of fire rising up a dragon’s throat, leaving my mouth tasting of ash. But a thrum of awe still fills me, along with an unexpecte
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung is as ambitious and intriguing as the conplex math problems Katherine, the protagonist of this remarkable novel aims to solve. This is a novel, the scope of which is staggering--as Katherine moves through her life trying to discover who she is while negotiating the world of mathematics as a woman who refuses to be silenced or sidelined for anyone, no matter what it costs her. In her second novel, Chung has crafted a story that is moving, elegant and richly writt ...more
My left brain aches, my right brain aches, my heart aches. The Tenth Muse is an extraordinary story that takes personal ambition, the logic of mathematics, and the highly emotional turmoil of family secrets and love, and overlays them to create an outstanding novel. A story that paints the most challenging decisions we would ever have to make – a choice between the things we love most.

Katherine has a gifted mathematical mind and from her childhood through to University she has always been
A fascinatingly erudite and thought provoking historical novel by Catherine Chung written in the style of a personal memoir, with the extraordinary Katherine reflecting with on the challenges of her past life with the self awareness that perhaps there was much that she could have approached more wisely with the benefit of hindsight. She grew up in the post-WW2 years in small town New Umbria in Michigan, the child of an interracial relationship, with her American father, a man silent on his warti ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
All the World’s A Pulpit

Catherine Chung has issues. Many, many issues. All packed tightly into this sardine tin-like novel of academic mathematics: misogyny and male cruelty of almost every sort to women, casual racism, inter-generational miscommunication, parental abandonment and lone parenting, warfare on two continents, international child smuggling, American academic politics, absence of sisterhood in science, the sad biographies of a number of important mathematicians ancient and modern (
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am into humanities, but this book proved to be both fascinating and engaging for me despite the field which I do not enter eagerly, namely, mathematics. It tells an intriguing story of a woman who, step by step, learns about her true identity and becomes a renowned mathematician against all odds.
The novel talks about some theories in a most interesting way, easy to follow by a reader with average knowledge, which I appreciated, and at the same time it is a tale of learning who Katherine reall
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Thanks so much for your interest in THE TENTH MUSE! I hope you like it, and am so grateful to all of my readers.
Elyse  Walters
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ebook, read ...own .... a bonus ....I listened ( skimmed a little)... to the audiobook from the library (overdrive) by the ‘audiobook-goddess’ > *Cassandra Campbell*.

“The Tenth Muse”.... was a FANTASTIC SURPRISE! I have no idea why I put off reading it —
—reviews from * Peter, Paromjit, and Barbara*— are outstanding! Read them. I could honestly just cut and paste THEIR REVIEWS.... lol....
what my friends didn’t tell me, ( mean people), was “NOT TO MISS THIS BOOK”.
I me
Jessica Woodbury
What a beautiful and mesmerizing book. I didn't so much read it as get lost in it, finishing it in little more than a day. Katherine is a Mathemetician, professional, respected, and accomplished. In the novel she looks back on her life, particularly the early stages of her career which were inextricably bound up with the story of where she came from.

In post-WWII America, numbers come naturally to Katherine from an early age, but the world of mathematics is never a natural fit. She is always the
Bernhard Riemann, German mathematician, in 1859 proposed the Riemann hypothesis, which remains unsolved to this day. “In fact, the Clay Institute is offering $1 million to the person who solves it first.”

This story is about a young ambitious woman who tries to solve the Riemann hypothesis. Set during a time when only men studied science and only men were given positions as professors. Katherine, the protagonist, is being told repeatedly that she could achieve so much if only she were a man.

“The Tenth Muse” by Catherine Chung narrated by Cassandra Campbell in the Audible production is an absorbing listen. Campbell’s voice is lyrical and serene.

Chung is not only an author, but a mathematician as well. She combines her two strengths to create “The Tenth Muse”. Although math is almost a character of the novel, Chung brings in complex theorems and ideas and writes them simply so the nonmathematical can easily follow. Her main character is a woman who is gifted in mathematics in the 19
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow, I'd always thought those were the two options available to me. The tenth muse gave up everything to claim her own voice. Kwan-Yin gave up everything on behalf of everyone else.

4.5 stars. What a surprising novel! The writing style is intelligent, beautiful, crisp but very easy and accessible. The story is very textured with so many layers and genres included. I loved her descriptions of the science of mathematics - she made it sound like magic.

The characters and the relationships felt ve
lark benobi
It’s readable and smart. I loved it.

Chapter 16 and its aftermath were distracting to me, though, and influenced my read of the novel as a whole. This chapter compresses the horrors of the lives of comfort women during WWII into a few unearned paragraphs, e.g. "The first time I saw her all her clothes hung off her shoulders in dirty rags...her eyes were two blackened shiny holes...I became half mad with desire for her…” "He put his sweating hand on the gash inside my thigh”… and then it leaps mi
Reading Catherine Chung's engrossing second novel you could be forgiven for thinking you are reading a memoir. With such mastery of words, I found myself taken on a sweeping journey of mathematics and trying to unravel heritage.

Raised by a Chinese immigrant mum and her white World War II veteran father Katherine has had a love for mathematics from an early age. Already ostracized by her fellow students due to her mixed parenthood things get even worse after her mother abandons her. Despite being
Sonja Arlow
3.5 stars

This is a story filled with math but also fairy tales. An odd combination that just worked well.

I myself would rather scoop my eyes out with a spoon than work on math problems so believe me when I say you do not have to understand high math to appreciate the context of the story.

Set in the 50’s and 60’s, this is a time where women were expected to work for free if they ever want to work in science at all. And that was viewed as a privilege!

The author also included sections on other wome
Nov 05, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tbrsoon-planned
i really want to read this now after learning about juana inez de la cruz, also nicknamed the tenth muse, in my spanish class
Is this the only book to which I've given 5 stars in 2019? I just checked: apparently, yes.

When I first heard of this book, I leapt to add it to my reading list because, as far as I'm aware, it's the only novel extant that explores what it is like to be a woman in mathematics -- specifically, an Asian American woman in mathematics -- through the words of an author who has walked that path herself and can therefore portray its truths faithfully rather than sensationalistically. In this respect, t
Nan Williams
This story had a lot going for it. I really enjoyed reading the history of the development of higher math. Less to my liking were the ins and outs of academia, but I could certainly understand some of the prejudice there. Chung definitely exhibited a chip on her own shoulder and couldn’t see to free herself from her own imprisonment of victimhood.

Just an aside … as a woman I’ve never “felt” victimized nor have I let myself feel prejudiced against. When I was in an MBA program (in 1964) which had
Post WWII Michigan. Catherine is an ambitious Asian American math genius who quickly learns that the odds are stacked against her, being a woman in a man's field, which makes her more determined than ever to leave her mark in the world by solving one of the most impossible math hypotheses. While she attempts to unearth the mathematical challenges, she discovers puzzles that surround her own identity. For those who enjoyed Pachinko by Min Jin Lee or The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict.
Stacey (bookishpursuit)
I was hoping to like this much more. I preordered it so I assumed I would like it more, but I found it average. The one thing the protagainist Katherine is certain of is that she has an extraordinary gift for math. Her life goal is to "conquer the Riemann hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time." However, she met with severe resistance as a female in the 1950's and 60's. Her battle to have her work recognized and to overcome the prejudice against her gender in a male d ...more
Gumble's Yard
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Everyone knows that once upon a time there were nine muses ….
What not everyone knows is that there once existed another sister, who chose a different path. She was the youngest of them, and the most reckless, and when she came of age and it was time to claim an art, she shook her head, and she refused. She said she did not wish to sing in the voices of men, telling only the stories they wished to tell. She preferred to sing her songs herself.

I guess every book has an ideal audience – for th
Jessica Jeffers
A thoroughly unexpected gem.
Brooke Smith
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much that I didn’t want to finish it!

It’s a perfect book for the cultural conversations we are having right now. The backbone of the book is a deep exploration of the struggles women have faced, both personally and professionally, when they have exceptional minds and important contributions to give to the world of knowledge. These themes are revealed in a fresh way that is not at all trite or heavy handed. It will cause you to reflect on the answers that have been lost to t
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
2.5 stars

definitely wouldve been a DNF if i hadnt listened to it on audiobook...

this was just another book in a string of underwhelming reads that got increasingly boring as i kept reading them. just didnt feel invested in anything or anyone. oh well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
J.C. Ahmed
Jan 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The Tenth Muse started out strong, telling the story of a girl growing up mixed race in a homogeneous area in the 1950s, the challenges she had as a woman trying to make it in the male dominated field of mathematics, and the search for her parents. But the second half of the book was weaker, going in directions I didn’t find very believable. There’s no way Peter would have thought he was helping her when he showed up in Germany with his big announcement. I’m not joking when I say I paused the au ...more
Michael Livingston
This was a really enjoyable read, featuring some accessible maths talk, historical drama, romance, betrayal and a neatly structured plot. Things fell together a bit neatly in a few places, but I had a lot of fun with this.
Thank You Tracey and yes I loved it! Probably its not a five star book, but what the hell, I'm in a mood, and I just really love the feeling I am left with at the end.

Our heroine, Katherine is a mathematician. A woman before her time, struggling to figure out who she is in a field of men. But also her story of identity also unfolds throughout the book, and she discovers her story of genius and love predated her birth. What's really beautiful about the book, is that its when math becomes about n
Elizabeth A
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2019
I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, and was delighted to be immediately sucked into this tale. I have a soft spot for stories about women in the sciences, and this one delights on many levels.

Katherine is an accomplished and successful mathematician. The story starts with an older Katherine looking back on her life, and how she's always felt like an outsider. Not only was she a smart girl who was really good at ma
I picked this book up for a break from the typical stuff I was required to read. I needed something solid and good and refreshing. This was just what I needed.

I loved and connected with Katherine. She was going on this emotional journey to find herself and her past. It was a unique journey through math and history which was right up my alley. I thought the writing was so delicious and good. I loved exploring Germany in the 1950s in the aftermath of WWII. It was unique and great.

Also, the perspe
“I was so used to my perpetual status of outsider that I’d stopped questioning in each situation whether this time it was my femaleness or my Asianness or the combination of both that branded me different. Even now, I feel impatient when asked about what being these things mean to me—the expectation that because my race and my gender are often the first things people notice about me, they must also be the most significant to me. When I die, I know the first sentence in my obituary will read,
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Catherine Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director's Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has a degree in mathematics fro ...more

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“I couldn’t help but wonder why so many intelligent men aren’t more embarrassed to speak on topics they know nothing about, or why anyone would listen to an economist on such a matter in the first place. How are they so sure of themselves, and why are so many people so eager to listen? I’ve always wished I had the confidence to speak with half the conviction on subjects I’m actually competent to discuss.” 5 likes
“it seemed to me that the furor and outrage over those remarks had been manufactured to camouflage that fact.” 1 likes
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