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The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall

The Proof of Love (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Catherine Hall

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652183,505 (4.12)7
Title:The Proof of Love
Authors:Catherine Hall
Info:Portobello Books (2011), Kindle Edition
Collections:Kindle, Use for recommendations, Read in 2012
Tags:Kindle, 21st century fiction, British author, Recommended by soupdragon, Mathematics, Published: 2011, Farming, Lake District, 1970s, 2012 75 books challenge, TIOLI

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The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall (2011)



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It's the hot summer of 1976 in Cumbria when Spencer Little arrives in a small farming community on his bicycle. He's running away from his research student existence at Cambridge for the summer, away from an unpleasant incident and frustrations of his pure maths research that isn't progressing as whe ell as he or his supervisors would like. Living in a shepherd's hut and working on the farm for his keep is certainly different. He strikes a friendship with Alice, the 10-year-old daugher of the farm, and gets unexpectedly close with one of the young men of the village and does his best to stay away from the vicar who is a former Cambridge man and the gossiping village women whose company he finds uncomfortable. It's a good summer but then it doesn't end well.

I enjoyed reading this book, getting into Spencer's life and trying to understand what had brought him to Cumbria. I liked the friendship with Alice, would have loved to have more Dorothy, and found the end pretty devastating although also disappointing in the sense that it seemed to reproduce that old cliché about non-straight characters only being acceptable when things end somehow nastily for them that felt like a let-down after everything. I'm not saying happy endings should be mandatory, how boring and trite would that be, but this one felt simply nasty rather than bleakly realistic. ( )
  mari_reads | Sep 29, 2012 |
I was really gripped by this story of Spencer Little, a Cambridge mathematician who spends a summer helping on a farm in the Lake District to try and escape from the social pressures of Cambridge life and give himself some space to make progress with his work. It's set during the 1976 heatwave in the UK; the farm and the countryside are suffering from the dry weather and the heat and despite himself Spencer finds he is getting caught up in the life of the farm and strikes up a friendship with the farmer's ten year old daughter, Alice. The plot is a slow burn but the conclusion, when it comes, is both tragic and chilling. ( )
  souloftherose | Aug 29, 2012 |
Showing 2 of 2
The novel hinges on the idea of "proof", the "pure, uncontaminated" witness to truth of mathematics as against the slippery and dubious evidences of the mortal world.

The Proof of Love is written in a quiet style; its plot has a slow burn. The novel feels constructed, its people having something of the quality of characters in a fable. The young man gravitates towards a relationship with a 10-year-old girl, Alice, promising for both but ultimately disastrous for them. On the realistic level this does not work well, the conversations between man and girl having a heavy and sometimes mawkish meaningfulness.

What distinguishes this novel is less its characterisation and narrative than a quality that might rather be called georgic than pastoral...There are shades of Wordsworth in this Lakeland tale
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'To become a child is to be very literal; to find everything so strange that nothing is surprising; to be heartless, to be ruthless, yet be so passionate that a snub or a shadow drapes the world in gloom.'

Virginia Woolf, from 'Lewis Carroll', in The Moment and Other Essays
'Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.'

Bertrand Russell, from 'The Study of Mathematics', in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays
For my mother and father, with love
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Now the silence was broken as he waded, each step forcing the water to ripple out away from him, slapping hard into granite.
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During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.… (more)

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