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.
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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.
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.
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.)