A powerful and virtuosically researched story about the mysteries of the head and the heart.

THE TENTH MUSE

A mathematician with a Chinese immigrant mother and a white American father recounts her life among geniuses and the search for her true identity.

“I suppose I should warn you,” says Katherine, the narrator of Chung’s (Forgotten Country, 2012) elegant novel, “that I tell a story like a woman: looping into myself, interrupting.” Katherine’s womanhood weighs heavily on her, first as a young math prodigy and then later as one of the only female graduate students at MIT in the early 1960s. Despite being surrounded by men who either dismiss her outright or want to use her astonishing intelligence for their own gains, Katherine never loses her ambition to have an academic career and to solve the Riemann hypothesis, one of the greatest mysteries in math. Though she befriends some of history’s most famous scientists and mathematicians—Chung weaves numerous historical figures into her fictional world—Katherine’s feeling of otherness is deepened by a mystery at her life’s core: Her parents are not who she thought they were, and she has only a few stories from her father, a World War II veteran, and a German notebook full of equations to help her solve the mystery of her parentage. Their real identities, buried somewhere in the gaps left after the Nazis ravaged Europe during the war, may help Katherine understand not only the riddle of who she really is, but perhaps even some of the largest mysteries of nature and the universe. 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.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-257406-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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