Author: Apostolos Doxiadis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 224 Pages
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I read Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture after it was referred to me by my mother. We both enjoy studying mathematics (it's what I have my degree in) and she enjoyed this historical account of a man obsessed with solving Goldbach's Conjecture, one of the most famous unsolved mathematical statements.
What makes this novel great is not the mathematical genius that it delivers. In fact, if you're worried that you wouldn't enjoy it because it might be too "mathy," you would be mistaken. While math problems are discussed and the main characters are mathematicians, this is not an overly technical book. No, what makes it great is the writing style. It's a very compelling and readable story. It's just so cleverly put together.
The name of the first person narrator is never mentioned. All you know is that he is the nephew of Uncle Petros. You know the names of several other people in his family, his college roommate, but his own name is never of importance to the story that he is relating. Because it's Petros' story. Not his. I am not sure that I have ever read a book constructed quite like this one, but I very much enjoyed it.
This is a historical novel, so it weaves together actual events and people. Famous mathematicians make appearances. And all of it is blended so smoothly together. Doxiadis obviously did his research.
The novel is very much a novel of mathematical obsession. Petros, a brilliant young mathematician, became obsessed with solving one of the great problems so that his name would be always remembered by mathematicians, not cast aside because he only contributed minor proofs. And so he tackled Goldbach's Conjecture. The progression of this obsession and what it did to his life was very interesting to follow.
Having an appreciation for mathematics would probably give readers more enjoyment while reading this book, but I don't think it's strictly necessary. The writing and story construction stand on their own very well.