Sonderbooks Book Review of The Sand-Reckoner

Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

   cover

*****The Sand-Reckoner

by Gillian Bradshaw

Reviewed August 2001.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2001
Tom Doherty Associates, 2000.
Available at Sembach Library (F BRA)

My favorite novel of the trip was The Sand-Reckoner.  This was a gift from my sister Becky, who knows how much I love Gillian Bradshaw books.  (Becky started me off on Gillian Bradshaw with a gift years ago of the fabulous book Imperial Purple.)

Gillian Bradshaw writes wonderful historical novels set during the time of the Roman Empire.  She obviously researches extensively, and has a way of making her characters live.  However, The Sand-Reckoner stands out among them all in my mind because, believe it or not, it’s a novel about an mathematician!  (What could be better?)

Okay, in case any of you don’t know, I have a Master’s in Math and have a small collection of math-books-for-laypeople.  This is my first novel in that collection!

I do think this book will have appeal to even those who don’t love Math themselves.  Gillian Bradshaw confesses that she is no geometer herself, but she does a magnificent job of creating a believable young genius.

It is the story of Archimedes, one of the most brilliant men of all time.  He comes back to his home in Syracuse and engineers machines of war to defend the city against the might of Rome.  I had heard the famous story of Archimedes’ death: (mentioned in the historical note at the end).  When Syracuse was defeated, Archimedes didn’t notice until a Roman messed up his notes.  Archimedes shouted at the man to leave his circles alone, and was killed.

This book tells the story of a much younger Archimedes, already obsessed with ideas.  He was fortunate to live in the city of a wise king, Hieron.  Ms Bradshaw notes that even Hieron’s contemporaries found him too good to be true.  Hieron must figure out how to motivate Archimedes to stay in Syracuse, building for them, rather than going back to the great library of Alexandria.

I found this book absolutely delightful.  It appealed to my mind as well as my heart, but not in a dry or dull way.

Reader comment:  An anonymous reader also gives this book Five Stars.

Reviews of other books by Gillian Bradshaw:
Imperial Purple
The Wolf Hunt
Cleopatra's Heir
Render Unto Caesar
Dangerous Notes
The Wrong Reflection

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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