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An intellectual thriller that manages to convey the high drama and excitement involved in the pursuit of an answer to a mysterious . . . mathematical theorem. Eccentric uncles are usually better loved than conventional ones, for some reason, and the narrator’s uncle Petros Papachristos is about as loopy as they come. Apparently unemployed and rumored to be insane, Uncle Petros lives alone in the countryside and seems to do nothing other than read and play chess. The eldest of the three Papachristos brothers, he grew up in comfort as the son of a successful Athens businessman and was sent for his early education to a fashionable French Jesuit school, where his gift for mathematics was so prodigious that his teachers had to concede their teenaged charge knew more than they. He was then dispatched to Berlin for higher studies, and eventually was on the faculty of the University of Munich. There Uncle Petros became intrigued by Goldbach’s Conjecture—which speculates that every even number greater than two may be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers—and sets himself to the task of proving it. By the time he comes to the conclusion that the conjecture is unprovable, he’s spent so many years on the effort that his career has been wasted. What effect does his example have on his nephew? Why, naturally it inspires him to become a mathematician and prove the conjecture himself! Some people never learn. Neither do some families. And some end up learning very different things than they set out to discover, as Uncle Petros found out about mathematics and his nephew found out about Uncle Petros himself. Delightful fun, well-conceived and nicely executed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-58234-067-6
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000