I love the premise of The Goddess of Small Victories: a genius and somewhat troubled mathematician falls in love with a “common” nightclub worker in the 1920s. But I was surprised by how mercilessly dense this book was. Yes, part of that had to do with the subject matter: mathematics, philosophy, and theories of logic (etc.). But the uneven character development and stuttering storyline didn’t help either. It seemed like Grannec couldn’t decide whether to write a novel or a biography, and so she ended up with a confused narrative full of overpowering explanations of theories, awkward philosophical exchanges, and unconvincing characters. The refreshing and playful Adele was the exception, but even she couldn’t make up for the book’s unrelenting heaviness.
I also had trouble with Grannec’s writing style. I really wanted to let myself be swept up in this complicated relationship between Kurt and Adele, but I kept feeling like Grannec was standing over my shoulder eager to point out her writing tricks, word choices, and plot twists, like: “A-ha, did you see what I did there? Did you catch that witty exchange? Oh, and did you see how I foreshadowed a bit there? Impressive, eh?”
All that to say, I think Grannec may have gotten in her own way in the telling of this story. By the time I was 200 pages in, I felt sure that she had written this story more for her own enjoyment than mine. And, unfortunately, the end result was a somewhat interesting, somewhat forced–and surprisingly tiresome–account of what I imagine to be in reality, a very exciting and engaging subject. Overall, I had high hopes for this book but was ultimately disappointed.