The Mathematics of Love

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 April, 2007, 12:00am

The Mathematics of Love

by Emma Darwin

Headline, HK$128

Emma Darwin's debut novel takes its name from an observation that 'the mathematics of love defies arithmetic'. Told by two narrators, who live 150 years apart, the story describes how a teenager, Anna, is packed off by her mother in 1976 to spend a summer with a strange uncle and drunk grandmother at a defunct boarding school in the English countryside. There, she befriends photographers Eva and Theo, a worldly couple whose liberal views on love open the girl's eyes to affairs of the heart. At the school, Anna comes across a stash of letters belonging to Major Stephen Fairhurst, who lost a leg in the Napoleonic wars and left behind a lover in Spain after the battles. He's shackled to the past, which is revealed as he starts corresponding with his former paramour's sister, Lucy, who encourages him to rekindle his love. His intimate letters to Lucy provide succour for Anna - who is struggling to make sense of her affair with Theo - although they underscore that love works in mysterious ways. The author, a great great granddaughter of Charles Darwin, has written convincingly about the vagaries of love by conjuring believable protagonists whose voices resonate.