Cover image for The parrot's theorem : a novel
The parrot's theorem : a novel
Guedj, Denis.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Théorème du perroquet. English
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2001.

Physical Description:
vii, 344 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes cast of characters index.
Added Author:

Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"When Mr. Ruche, a reclusive Parisian bookseller, receives a letter from a long lost friend in the Amazon bequesting him a vast library of mathematical books, he is propelled into a great exploration of the story of maths, from brilliant Greek thinkers, such as Archimedes and Pythagoras, to the modern-day genius Fermat." "Meanwhile Max, a deaf boy whose dysfunctional family live with Mr. Ruche, finds a voluble parrot in a local fleamarket. He turns out to be a bird who discusses maths with anyone who will listen. So when Mr. Ruche learns of his friend's mysterious death in the rainforests of Brazil he decides that with the parrot's help he will use these books to teach Max and his twin brother and sister the mysteries of Euclid's Elements, Pythagoras' Theorem and the countless other wonders of numbers and shapes." "But soon it becomes clear that Mr. Ruche has inherited the library for reasons other than pure enlightenment, and before he knows it the household are caught up in a race to prevent vital theorems falling into the wrong hands."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Whimsy is not a word commonly associated with theoretical mathematics, yet Guedj's story of three children's journey through the history of numerical reasoning brings to this doggedly academic material a childlike sense of playfulness and adventure. Guided by an enigmatic neighbor, Mr. Ruche, and a garrulous parrot named Sidney, young Max Laird and his two siblings discover the inner life and beauty of theorems and formulas. Framing their discoveries is an unfolding mystery involving Sidney, a set of brilliant new theorems, and a master thief. In its intricate combination of potboiler plot with a profound expression of the sheer wonder of human knowledge, the novel resembles Umberto Eco's Aristotelean detective story The Name of the Rose. Guedj, however, writes with the optimistic wisdom of a fondly remembered childhood teacher, far removed from Eco's dark vision. For readers whose schooling in these subjects is nearly forgotten, it may provide a glimpse of another path, a world left unexplored. --Will Hickman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Murder mystery meets mathematical history in this pleasantly whimsical but unfocused debut novel, which begins when a Parisian bookseller named Pierre Ruche receives a priceless collection of historical math books from a wartime colleague named Elgar Grosrouvre. Grosrouvre's mathematical treasure is augmented when a precocious, math-savvy parrot is rescued by a young deaf boy named Max Liard after he discovers two men trying to capture and muzzle the bird. Max, who was adopted, lives with Ruche along with his rather flaky mother, Perette, and his older twin brother and sister, who are called Jon-and-Lea. The arrival of the library sends Ruche into a tizzy of mathematical research until he realizes that his friend's desire to bequeath the collection may have stemmed in part from threats to his life. The parrot plays a vital role in the unraveling of the mystery when Ruche discovers that the talking bird has become the verbal repository for Grosrouvre's groundbreaking work on an important mathematical theorem. What follows is an extended attempt to follow his elusive trail. While the concept is brilliant and innovative, this novel is much more a brief history of mathematics than a murder mystery, and despite the author's expertise and tireless enthusiasm for his subject, the math-oriented material often wanders afar. Guedj, a Paris mathematics professor and author of Numbers: The Universal Language, has a definite talent for storytelling, but his charming novel, albeit a bestseller in France, lacks proper balance between mystery and history. (Sept. 1) Forecast: By presenting such challenging subject matter in scattered fashion, Guedj reduces the novel's accessibility and thus the size and scope of his potential U.S. audience. The book was a bestseller in France, but will face more difficulties here. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved