When I choose how many stars to give a book, I simply ask myself did I dislike it (1 star), was it OK (2 stars), did I like it (3 stars), did I really like it (4 stars) or did I find it absolutley, utterly anasing (5 stars). When I am determining the numer of stars I will give a book, I do not analyze why, I just make myself honestly consider how I felt when reading the book. I am giving this book two stars. Then comes the hard part, to determine why I have reacted as I have. I don't always know. Writing the review actually helps mu understand my own emotions. It is my emotions that determine the stars.
I assume you have already read the book description. I see no point in repeating them. I will try and explain why I gave this book 2 stars. I definitely enjoyed reading about the wide variety of topics that were discussed. You get everything from Einstein to Winston Churchill to Richard Feynman to Paul Erdös to xerosis to art to mathematics. You get lots about mathematics. Perfect numbers, prime numbers, probability, mathematical scholars, Hypatia... I could go on and on. There is lots of interesting information to be found in this book. You learn about the couple's escapades in France, Italy, Brazil and the US. There are lines of Jacques Brel's songs, dialogues in French and Italian. They spend lots of time in Brittany, France. I definitely enjoyed reading the French, hearing the Celtic village names that I recognize. I love Brittany. A reader who does not know French will loose a lot.
So if the book covers so many interesting topics, what is wrong? First of all it is extremely cerebral. Secondly, almost too many subjects are covered. There is a lack of depth to any one topic - except maybe mathematics. But I got tired with the mathematical reasoning. In fact the wife and daughter of Philip, who has died, they too get tired of his only and always analysing everything as a numerical problem.
And he tells her, I am happy. For once he is not thinking of numbers; he is not counting. (71% through the book)
I have not long agoi red a marvellous book,The Housekeeper and the Professor, the central theme of which was also mathematics. This book makes mathematics winderful. It engagingly brings to life relationships with a "family". I never felt close to Philip or Sabine or their daughter, Louise. Sabines's thoughts about her life with Philip, thoughts she has beside her dead husband the night after his death, were not enough to draw me into their lives. Their marriage was clearly rocky at intervals, but what marriage isn't? I do leave the book with the belief that they loved each other. I liked the sparkle in the last two pages. You must read the book to find out what I am referring to!, Perhaps you will not agree with me, but think their marriage was floundering.
No, it is definitely not a bad book, but too cerebral for my tastes. I want to feel attached to the characters. I can be mad at them or I can like them, but they must move me one way or the other. Here, in this book, I merely had fun sharing their experiences. This may certainly be enough for another reader. Lots of interesting topics are covered. I adore Feynman. I want to read a whole book about Hypatia. I enjoy Brel's songs, but if you do not know French, if you do not know these songs, you will miss these delights. Brel's name is not even mentioned. Life in France is well depicted, but still it wasn't enough for me. Maybe I am just very, very picky!
I have read an egalley, in other words an ARC in digital format. Changes mlay occur before the book is published.