a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|From the back cover: "A heart divided...a passion multiplied...a love unequalled."|
Although you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, I could guess from the image of a shirtless man with no chest hair embracing a woman in a revealing red dress that this book falls squarely into the "romance" genre. In fact, in most ways the book reinforces my prejudices about such books. In it, a shy woman in Victorian England must visit the home of a handsome Lord of questionable reputation to get back the locket which contains a secret she must keep from her younger sister. The man is attracted to and intrigued by her, and so he uses the power he has over her, but does so very slowly throughout the course of the book. There is a lot of emphasis on how neatly he dresses, on the double entendre of every remark he makes, on the electric charge when they touch, on lust and on love.
Of course, there is more to it than that, else it would not be listed here on the Mathematical Fiction Homepage. You see, Lydia (the aforementioned woman) is a mathematician. The author correctly portrays this as an unusual profession for a woman in that era. Even that she was invited to be the student of a famous professor, despite the fact that her gender would keep her from being able to matriculate, is (unfortunately) believable.
Lydia tends to think of mathematics whenever she is frightened -- recalling trig identities, the product rule, or facts about the factorization of integers -- as if they were a sort of mantra. She also creates mathematical puzzles, several of which appear in the course of the book as challenges between herself and Lord Northwood. The opening line of the book is the statement that every nxn matrix satisfies its characteristic polynomial! All of this mathematics is there, essentially, to show that she is smart; readers will not miss much if they do not understand it.
In addition, there is a theme of Lydia's attempts to understand love and romance through mathematics. The author lists several (modern) articles on this very subject that she used as inspiration for Lydia's research in this area. But, of course, the point that the book wishes to emphasize is that you cannot quantify love and passion, you have to feel them...or so Lord Northwood tells Lydia while he gets physically intimate with her for the first time. Indeed, when he tells her this she does stop talking about inverse functions and just "gets down with it".
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the author handled the mathematics. Most of it was essentially correct, and the few places that it wasn't (e.g. a strange looking "differential equation" about romance that did not look like a differential equation at all) probably was due simply to typesetting limitations. As for its literary quality, I suppose that may depend on what you think of the romance novels. I get the feeling that this is a pretty good example of that genre, but since I am not generally a fan I may not be a particularly good judge. If there is anyone who knows math and enjoys romance novels, please write a review of this one that I can post here.
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|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)