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The Parrot's Theorem [Paperback]

Denis Guedj
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Aug 2001

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 and wonders of numbers and shapes.

Charming, fresh, with a narrative which races along, the novel takes the reader on a delightful journey through the history of mathematics.

Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (2 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753811073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753811078
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 419,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A huge bestseller in France, this is an enchanting tale of a parrot who teaches a young boy the history of maths from the ancient Greeks to the solution of Fermat's Theorem

About the Author

Denis Guedj is a Professor of the History of Science at Paris VIII University. He also teaches fictional approaches to science and is an award-winning film writer.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Parrot's Theory is part fable, part magical realism, and part treatise on the history and major threads of mathematics. The obvious comparison to be drawn is with Sophie's World, and certainly it is difficult to think that this book was not inspired by Jostein Gaardner's bestseller.
Around a mystical quest centering on a parrot found in the Clingnancourt flea market, a truckload of books by a reclusive mathematician and the unruly home life of a single parent and her bookish friend, Guedj teases out a history of Mathematics, from the ancient Greeks to the solution to Fermat's Theorem.
Max, the youngest son in the disfunctional family is the one who finds the parrot being mistreated in the flea market and brings it home. His mother, an intelligent, able woman, and Max's brother and sister are twins. Their friend Monsieur Ruche runs the neighbouring bookshop and is close to mother and children.
The parrot is uncommon because it does no talk, it speaks - in cogent, intelligent responses it discusses mathematics with anyone who will listen. M. Ruche, an elderly ex-mathematician teases out the birds non-sequiters into stories of the greek Mathematicians. The children (somewhat implausibly in present day France) are enchanted.
Then M. Ruche receives a letter from his old friend the reclusive mathematician M Grosrouvre (pun on Magnum Opus), advising him that he is sending his library of maths books from his jungle hideout to M Ruche. The books duly arrive -several truck loads - and the children help M. Ruche to catalogue them in his bookshop.
The Parrot's Theory is never laboured. The characters are genuinely charming, their dialogue fresh, modern and lacking the stilted politeness of much adolescent fiction.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maths is not a mystery 18 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Let me set the record straight: I'm not a mathematician and my knowledge in maths is the one I obtained in high school. Nothing more than that. So a novel on and about maths should be a bore for me (so I thought).
But it was not! On the contrary, Guedj manages to find the way to incorporate a huge number of maths into the plot of this really amusing novel in such a way, that in the end the reader has gone through the history of maths without noticing the (expected) difficulty. More appropriately: enjoying every minute.
For, scientific inquiry is really an amusing task, and the procedure of proving theorems looks indeed like the unravel of a plot. Maths, real maths, are not the boring memory from our schooldays, but a highly amusing task, a mystery that waits to be explored. All it takes is an inspired guide, such as Guedj, who lays before our eyes all the major stages in math history with the talent of a first-class prose witer and with the care of a true teacher, not neglecting the real plot of this novel, which is a proper detective-style book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow going, but rewarding 24 July 2002
This is a strange book in many ways. While it tries to tell a story about an old man, and a collection of books, it is really a history of mathematics - and a very well written one.
The story and characters are only props really - the plot is virtually non existant, and what there is of it is entirely predictable.
If you're wondering why I've given the book 4 stars, it's because of the coverage of maths - it's fantastic. In the same way that "Searching For Bobby Fischer" opened up the world of chess, this works on that same level. It's fascinating.
There were times when I put the book down and forgot about it (it gets bogged down here and there), but at others you realise "so that's where that comes from!"...
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