The Washington Post
The Mathematics of Love: A Novelby Emma Darwin
The Mathematics of Love is a poignant chronicle of two people, separated by centuries, whose lives—amazingly, impossibly—become interwoven in a brilliant tapestry of tragedy, memory, and time. Following alternate but intimately connected stories—of a curious, promiscuous teenager in her season of exile and awakening in the English/em>
The Mathematics of Love is a poignant chronicle of two people, separated by centuries, whose lives—amazingly, impossibly—become interwoven in a brilliant tapestry of tragedy, memory, and time. Following alternate but intimately connected stories—of a curious, promiscuous teenager in her season of exile and awakening in the English countryside in 1976, and a nineteenth-century soldier damaged on the fields of Waterloo, struggling to find his way back to life with the help of a compassionate, extraordinary woman—Emma Darwin's breathtaking narrative brilliantly evokes the horrors of war, the pain of loss, the heat of passion, and the enduring power of love.
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The Mathematics of LoveA Novel
By Emma Darwin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Emma Darwin
All right reserved.
Had I not been there, no account, no print, no evidence of witnesses could have made me believe what I saw that day.
I had arrived at the Durwards' home only the evening before, and on the morrow there was enough uneasiness reported for Mr. Durward to feel obliged to go early to his printworks. His elder daughter, Miss Durward, was absent, and as the morning wore on, his younger daughter, Mrs. Greenshaw, could no longer disguise her anxiety for her sister. She set ever more stitches awry, and even wondered aloud if she ought to send for her son, Tom, to be fetched home from his favorite playground in the woods. In such a case I would always have offered my services to find and escort Miss Durward home. But I should mention that Mrs. Greenshaw was the young widow whose affections, though we all cloaked the fact in other words, I had come into Lancashire to engage.
My offer was greeted with relief and gratitude, and I received my orders: I must seek Miss Durward in the town, at the house of her old nurse Mrs. Heelis, which was in Dickinson Street, hard by St. Peter's Field, where the meeting which was the cause of so much unease was to take place. It was rumored that the magistrates were even now mustering the militia to disband the meeting. In the town, every shop that I could see was boarded up, every window shuttered, and while wewere yet some distance away, my hack was brought to a halt by the absolute solidity of the crowd all about us. I paid it off and made my way on foot through the hot streets, assisted by the movement of the mass, which was almost as steady as I was accustomed to observe in the Peninsula, though rather more motley, and very much more good-tempered. As we arrived on open ground not far from Dickinson Street the crowd became still more tightly packed. I abandoned any notion of making directly for my goal, and began to work my way round the edges of the throng. Shirtsleeves and leather aprons and petticoats and Sunday-best pinafores may not easily be counted by company or regiment, but trumpets and drums there were aplenty, and flags, or rather banners, borne aloft in the heat-hazed air with every bit as much pride as that of a color-sergeant of the Guards. I was astounded too to see blood-red, tin caps of liberty bobbing on poles above my head. True, these ironworkers and cotton-spinners were perhaps not bred of the same stock as my slow-spoken, country people at Kersey, but I could scarcely credit that any Englishman would willingly bear so infamous a sign of revolution and foreign tyranny.
The distance I had already walked, and my slow progress in the crowd, had inevitably made my leg ache, and despite my stick, I stumbled in trying to get between human bodies and iron railings. The roar of cheers and cries and the crash of music in my ears was solid and unwavering, like the haze of sweat and sooty dust through which we all moved. Over the caps and hats and beavers I could just make out a little group--ladies as well as men--standing on what seemed to be two hay carts lashed together to form a platform. One man appeared to be making a speech, though only a few could possibly have made out his meaning, and the rest began to push and mutter in their impatience.
And then from my left--the southwest--I heard cavalry, charging. On they came, all order lost before ever they reached the open ground, their sabers out, cutting at whatever man, woman, or child was within range. Some of the people tried to flee; others stood their ground. I saw a special constable go down to a cavalryman who, through the dust, took his truncheon to be a cudgel. At my elbow a lad fell, blood all over his face, and I caught at the bridle of the militiaman that did it.
"For shame, sir!" I cried. "Won't you give them time to get away? Don't you see them down?"
He looked at me, but I was not in uniform, no longer commissioned, and he wrenched his horse's head out of my grasp.
"It's Billy Kirby!" cried a girl's voice. "Billy, it's us! You'll not hurt ye marrahs!" But the rider could not or would not rein in, and the girl went down beneath his hoofs.
I started forward, but was knocked aside by a huge man clad as a blacksmith and intent on wrenching the iron railings behind me from the ground. Even after several years I am not as nimble as a man with two legs of his own. I fell heavily, and in the time it took me to right myself the yeoman cavalry had hacked and slashed their way across the field under a hail of stones, bricks, and iron bars. At my feet lay a woman, her hands pressed to her breast from where blood oozed between her fingers, her moans feeble from the extremity of her suffering. Even as I looked round to seek help for her in the hurrying, scrambling crowd, her moans ceased. I knelt down beside her as quickly as I might, but she was as dead as any of my men in the breach at Badajoz.
The crowd was slackening a little. On the far side of the field I could make out a company of the Fifteenth Hussars picking their way among the fallen and using the flat of their sabers to hasten the remains of the great gathering back to the courts and mills and villages whence they had come. The people went, stumbling with fear, or with the dull, hunched walk of prisoners of war, dragging their wounded with them. Only a few foolhardy lads turned to fling a final, defiant stone.
Excerpted from The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin Copyright © 2007 by Emma Darwin. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Emma Darwin studied drama and theatre arts at Birmingham University and then worked in academic publishing before turning to photography and writing. A great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma Wedgwood, Emma now lives in London with her two children. The author of The Mathematics of Love, she is finishing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Goldsmiths College.
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This book reads as if it was written by a scientist, neutrally studying her specimens, the characters. Everything they say or do is recorded for possible future interest. After a while, you realise that much of what they say or do in this book has no point other than to pile on the detail. This wouldn't be so bad if the style had any kind of creativity to it, but it's interminably flat. It also doesn't help that the writing is uneven and full of errors: unintentional tense changes, unimaginative word choices (e.g. 'same' three times in one sentence), and sentences that are difficult to unpick. For instance:- 'I don't need it in front of me to believe what happened ¿ that I was there ¿ any more than I need my photographs, convincingly young and clumsy though they are.' I've not heard of photographs referred to as 'young' or 'clumsy' before, and it took me a while to work out that she means it's the people shown in the photographs that are young. At least, that's what I think she means. And, on the next page:- 'At first the road through London was the same as the one all the times we went to Southend for our holiday'. I had to read this several times, and I'm still not sure what she means. Does she mean it started as the same road, then changed into a different road? Or that at first they followed the road they would have followed if going to Southend, but then took a different one? But this implies she didn't know where she was being taken to. Indeed, she goes on to say she's 'quite lost', after the coach she's in leaves London. But this is completely irrelevant since she knows where the coach is going anyway. There are too many of these confusing or irrelevant statements. Here's another one, in the same section:- 'I sat down and took a bite of my sandwich. 'So, you've left school?' Belle said. My mouthful was difficult to get rid of. At last I said, 'Yeah.'' Why not just say, 'I nodded'? There is no point in her having a mouthful of sandwich that she can't get rid of. Also, it builds our anticipation about what she will finally say. Which is, 'Yeah'. If you like unengaging characters drifting through endless, irrelevant, details who we're not only told, for example, 'babble' but then are given hefty slabs of actual babble-speech, just to make sure we've got the point, even though there isn't one, you'll enjoy this book.
I was really looking forward to reading this book and was very disappointed in it. The two story lines one in the present and one in the past never really meet. It was like reading two short stories at the same time. At the end when the author does try to tie them together it makes no sense. The author would have been better off focusing on either the current day or past story. Maybe the characters and the plot would have been better developed. The premise of the story was good, the author just doesn't pull it off. If you want to read a really great book where the author weaves the current day story with the past, read Judith Lennox' "Some Old Lover's Ghost".
My friend and I like to read the same books together. And with that we both agree on how pointless this book was. We agree with the previous review. There was way too many sentences left unfinished to be able to understand what happened at the end. For example on page 404, "And Idoia's in Stephen's letter.She must be my...I've never been bothered about relations and thimgs. But Theo must have--" So, how the heck is Idoia related? That's what we really want to know! Also Theo must of what? Been her grandfather? I mean how on earth are we suppose to figure that out? If anyone out there has read this book (unforunately for them too) and understands what we're suppose to get, please let us know. Because at this point, we both feel as if we have taken precious days away from our life that we can never get back! And to those who are considering buying this book, put the book down and never look back!
Having lost his leg during the Napoleonic War, British military officer Stephen Fairhurst also learns several years later the other cost as the widow he is to marry Hetty Greenshaw faints at the sight or lack of his leg. She begs off their engagement. However her unmarried sister photographer enthusiast Lucy Durward begins a correspondence with Stephen after he returned to his home Kersey Hall. He writes her informing her that he found a 'perfect' love on the Peninsular, but his Catalina was sent to an orphanage by her parents to become a nun. In 1976 with her mother running off to Spain with her lover, sixteen years old Anna Ware arrives at Kersey Hall to stay with her uncle, who for the most part neglects her. His neighbors, photographers Eva and Theo, are kind to the despondent teen, but Anna remains unhappy. She begins to slowly climb out of her depression when she receives and reads the letters between Stephen and Lucy. --- Though too many players get stage time, this is a fascinating character study especially when the story line focuses on the respective angst of Stephen, Lucy, and Anna. The links between 1819 and 1976 are cleverly designed so that Anna finds solace with photography and the letters, and learns what it truly means to be loved. Though the secondary cast makes too many appearances that intrude, fans will enjoy going back and forth (and occasionally into 2006) as Emma Darwin provides a warm drama that equates love in two generations as being the same mathematical formula. --- Harriet Klausner