At a time filled with urgent questions about identity, sexuality and the environment, she brings together science, poetry, philosophy and gender politics to find answers. As Virginia Woolf realised, the solution lies in the connectedness of everything: “the whole world is a work of art … we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself”. At more than 500 pages, Figuring is perhaps overlong: but as Popova notes at the end, this is the distillation of a lifetime’s reading on science, the arts and biography. As Melville said, “it is hard to be finite upon an infinite subject”.
[T]his indefinable book often reads like the poetry which means so much to Popova’s heroes while themes and motifs return as in music with renewed beauty and meaning...a heart-breaking recurrent theme that runs throughout Figuring – the difficulties that women encounter over and over again. They are not believed, accepted or valued, yet they will not be silenced...Although it is impossible to cover the multiplicity of the themes and stories here, love is a central theme, particularly the love of women for other women. Many of these trailblazers are gay and/or unconventional in their relationships.