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2.8 out of 5 stars
6
2.8 out of 5 stars


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on 18 July 2013
"The Three body problem" sets itself the difficult task of making an epistolary novel interesting, and succeeds only up to a point. The narrator, Vanessa, tells the story by means of letters to her twin sister Dora. Vanessa is a teacher of small children, who becomes an amateur detective. The eponymous problem is the "n-body problem", which deals with the prediction of the motion of a group of celestial objects that interact with each other gravitationally (acknowledgments to Wikipedia!) and Shaw tries to make this a sort of metaphor for the triple murder that Vanessa eventually solves. This device of using scientific or philosophical theories to illuminate or give structure to a narrative is a trick successfully pulled off by Tom Stoppard, but not always so happily by other writers, and here the relationship between celestial objects doesn't throw any extra light on the story.Vanessa's supposedly guiless and rather gushing conversation is unfortunately full of Americanisms, which compounds the unlikeliness of the whole fiction, a scenario of a single, and not wealthy, lady of the 1890s having unhampered access to university society and foreign travel and, least likely of all, the conversational respect of academic males. It's a likeable attempt at an unusual sort of detective story, but with the epistolry structure Shaw has caused herself unnecessary difficulties.
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on 3 April 2017
didn't like this at all
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on 25 September 2015
Rather poor. This book purports to have been written by an educated English woman in the late Victorian period. The details are inaccurate: no English woman of that period would write that she "waited in line", rather she would have "queued up"; the gavel was never used in English court-rooms to maintain order or otherwise; problems of foreign exchange were far less than is made out. This lack of attention to detail detracts from an already thin story.

The writing style is barely acceptable if you like gushy stories written in a cod Victorian style about intrepid young women kicking against the mores of the period. This novel almost manages to rise to this level, but fails to exploit the opportunity.

You'd be far better off reading a Jane Austin for the tenth time: you'll be far better entertained.
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on 5 November 2014
Seller recommended
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on 12 August 2014
Very quick read if you skip all the maths explanations. which are unnecessary and add nothing to the story unless you, like the author, are a mathematician. Oh to travel without passport control and customs queues. I might read another if I find one in a charity shop
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on 2 February 2015
Skip the maths bits and it's OK. Wooden characterisation, but passed an evening
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