Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace

by Jennifer Chiaverini

Hardcover, 2017




Dutton (2017), 448 pages


The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada's father, who was infamously "mad, bad, and dangerous to know," Ada's mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada's mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination--or worse yet, passion or poetry--is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes. When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage--brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly--will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics--ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman--falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents' estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.… (more)


(67 ratings; 3.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Kris_Anderson
Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini is novel about the life of Ada Lovelace. Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, is the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Not long after Ada was born, Annabella left her husband (Lord Byron had mental problems) and returned to her
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parent’s home. Annabella does everything in her power to make sure the Byron blood does not destroy Ada’s life. Fairy tales, make believe, poetry, passion (for life, ideas) and imagination are banned while mathematics, science, and languages are stressed in Ada’s education regime. We follow Ada through her lonely childhood into adulthood with her overbearing mother and unorthodox education. While in London during her first season, Ada meets Charles Babbage. Ada is fascinated with Babbage’s Difference Engine and the plans he has for the Analytical Engine. Ada wants to do what she can to help Babbage realize his dream. She continues to study advanced mathematics, meets the love of her life, discovers the reason her parent’s marriage fell apart, and continues to pursue the development of Babbage’s inventions. Will Ada be able to assist Babbage in achieving his dream?

Enchantress of Numbers is well-researched and contains interesting information on Ada’s life (if you make it that far into the book). The writing reminded me of a boring textbook (very dry). I loved Jennifer Chiaverini’s The Elm Creek Quilts series which is well-written, has a good pace, and wonderful characters. Enchantress of Numbers did not feel like it was written by the same author. Part of the problem was the first-person narrative. The story is first told from Annabella’s perspective and then from Ada’s point-of-view. She shares her reminisces starting with infanthood (which is unbelievable). Can any person remember being a baby especially with such detail? It reminded me a diary where Ada tells us how her mother controls her life (never meets her father, told her blood is bad). Any time Ada gets close to a caretaker, they are fired. If she shows an interest in a subject (like making wings), it is discouraged. The characters came across as flat. They were not brought to life. Ada (as well as her mother) is an unlikeable protagonist. I find it difficult to read a book when I do not like the main character. The mathematics sections will put many readers (non-mathematicians) to sleep (great if you suffer from insomnia). They dragged on for pages. The book was too long (it seemed to go on forever) and it was overly detailed. Many times, I wanted to abandon my pursuit of completing this Enchantress of Numbers. There were a couple of interesting sections, but they were few and far between. I’m sorry, but I was not enchanted by Enchantress of Numbers.
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
This is the story of Lord Byron’s daughter, Augusta Ada Bryon, who never met her father but whose life was shaped by the reputation and actions of Lord Byron. Ada’s mother, Annabella, was married to Lord Byron only a short time and left him with her infant daughter when his actions were
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increasingly bizarre. Annabella believed that Byron’s active imagination caused his actions and was determined that her daughter Ada would be led by intellect and reason rather than by poetry and emotion.
Even though the family was quite wealthy, Ada’s upbringing was often cold, detached, and uncomfortable. Her mother would leave her with nannies, but if Ada became too attached to them, they would be fired and another one would appear. Ada was taught math and science at a very early age and showed incredible abilities in those areas.
The story takes Ada through childhood to her introduction into London society where she meets such as Charles Dickens and Charles Babbage, an inventor who has created which was in essence the first computer. Ada and Babbage enjoy a close friendship as he recognizes her outstanding abilities. However, the first priority for a woman of her class in England at the time is to produce an heir and Ada marries William, Lord of Lovelace. William is at times supportive of her learning and interest in math and at other times she finds herself bound by the demands of motherhood and her role as a wife to William.
Although I didn’t understand many of the math references, I still found this an interesting book and one that painted a clear picture of the struggles women have had attempting to fulfill their roles as mothers and at the same time pursue a career or interest. I can’t say that Ada was an especially likeable character, but her persistence is to be admired. There is much detail in the book up until the very last chapters where I feel the author just drew everything to a close.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Excellent story. What a wonderful story. What she could have done 100 years later. Not a fun mother
LibraryThing member EllenH
This story about Ada Lovelace was tedious at times, but unlike about half of our book club, I was able to finish it. I actually ended up liking the book and found it interesting. I did do some checking on her facts several times when things began to be questionable, but in typical Chiaverini style
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she appears to have nailed it on accuracy and research. I see the skeptical comments about the memories of Ada as a 2 or 3 year old and agree that it's highly unlikely that she'd remember that much from that age
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LibraryThing member Nora_Reads
Jennifer Chiaverini did an amazing job with this story. The main character grows up right before the reader's eyes. She takes the reader along on a roller-coaster emotions she feels as a toddler, a girl, young lady, and later a mother. The strange relationship she had with her own parents was also
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very emotional and gripping.
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LibraryThing member vintagebeckie
One of my book clubs chose Enchantress of Numbers to further our goals of reading biographical fiction. We chose the book featuring Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace because we had read and enjoyed author Jennifer Chiaverini’s books and because it was not set in WWII. 😉 The story revolves
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around Lord Byron’s only child, Ada, and her fascination with all things mathematical and mechanical. Ada was quite the prodigy and is credited as the first computer programmer. There’s even a STEM holiday commemorating her. It was a long book, emphasis on long. While it did shed light on the era — Regency and early Victorian England — it was a bit of a slog. I listened to the audiobook borrowed from my library and had to renew twice. Another of our members stated that she felt like it was a school assignment to dread. No glowing recs from my group. It did emphasize the differences between educational and societal norms for women of the time and in our modern world. Ada was shaped by the legacy of her absent father and her domineering mother. I felt for Ada, but wish that the author had written more concisely. One of my group said she kept going with the novel in anticipation of something happening.

While we really can’t recommend the book, we were impressed by all that Ada Byron King accomplished. As always, reviews are subjective, but none of my group liked this book. Perhaps we were just not the target audience.

(I borrowed the audiobook from my library via Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)
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LibraryThing member hobbitprincess
Ada Lovelace was a woman in the early to mid-1800s who defied the norms of the time by being a female interested in numbers. She was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the English poet. During her life she becomes a friend and student of Charles Babbage, who came up with the idea of a
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digital, programmable computer or calculator. Ada published the first algorithm that she thought the machine would carry out, and she saw greater uses for it. She is sometimes thought of as the first computer programmer. This book was interesting, and I learned about someone I had not heard of before, but the book dragged in several places and got a bit more technical than I bargained for. It is definitely a worthwhile read, however.
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9.31 inches


1101985208 / 9781101985205
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