Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
Published December 2017 by Penguin Group Dutton 
Read by Virginia Leishmaniasis
20 hours, 2 minutes
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
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. But her mathematician mother, estranged from Ada's infamous and destructively passionate father, 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 how her exciting new friendship with Charles Babbage—the brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly inventor of an extraordinary machine, the Difference Engine—will define her destiny.

My Thoughts: 
It's always more than a little embarrassing when a publisher has kindly granted your request to read one of their books and then you don't get to it right away. Or maybe not even for 5 1/2 years. Until you finally decide you'll check it out from the library because even a very late review is better than none. I hope. 

Told through Ada's own voice, as a kind of memoir, Enchantress of Numbers chronicles a life spent trying to please a mother who fought to be number one in Ada's heart (to the point where she was constantly firing nurses, governesses, and teachers who Ada grew fond of) despite not seeming to be overly concerned about the amount of time she spent with her daughter. Ada's mother was hyper vigilant to ensure that she turn out nothing like her romantic father. This from a woman who, after only a few months of marriage, kept the title Lady Byron for the remainder of her days. Yeah, it was a complicated upbringing. 

When Ada met Charles Babbage and mathematician Mary Somerville, her life began to change. Finally she found her people. Then she married a man who encouraged her intellectual long as she still maintained their homes and raised their children. Even Babbage, ultimately expected her to stand behind him, despite the fact that she essentially conceived of computer programming. After all of that, poor Ada died at the young age of 36, unacknowledged for all she had done. 

Chiaverini is an author who digs deep and her extensive research is evident. At 20 hours, it might be argued that she may have included too much of it here. All of the changing of caregivers can get a bit repetitive and moving about the country, for example. Although, it could be argued, all of that made it obvious why Ada was so quick to marry when a man came along who appeared to be supportive. 

Ada's personal life comes off as more compelling than her scientific efforts. Perhaps a bit too much explanation in that area; perhaps it was simply overwhelmed by Ada's personal life. Still, I always appreciate learning the history of a woman who has largely gone ignored by history (because, you know, mostly written by men) and who contributed so greatly to computers as we now know them. I can't help but wonder what Ada Lovelace might have accomplished in her life if she had had the means to focus only on her scientific endeavors and if she had lived longer. 


  1. Mystica VarathapalanApril 27, 2023 at 12:58 AM

    The subject and author new to me. Enjoyed the review.

  2. I've read a little bit about Ada Lovelace and have always found her life fascinating. And I like Chiaverini's writing. I'm glad you reviewed this one...even if it was a 'little late'. ;D