Books

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
(3,5 stars)

I got the copy in exchange for a review.

9781101985205.jpegEnchantress of Numbers is a novel about Ada Lovelace. A word of warning: if you are a fan of Lord Byron (like one of my professors), this novel is probably not for you. Even though it talks primarily about Ada, as it is written from her perspective, the Prologue is written by he r mother, Lady Byron, about her relationship with the poet.

She, having never known her father, misses him and believes all good about him, but overall, it is not a shining portrayal of Lord Byron (nor is it a nice portrayal of Lady Byron, even though the reader understands her reasons for many things). Of course, the views are Ada’s so occasionally they may be prejudiced or exaggerated, but that happens in all the books with the first person narration.

From young ages, Ada is encouraged or even forced, to learn rational things such as mathematics, languages, even music, but never poetry. Poetry and all imagination are forbidden, even fairy tales when she is but a child. While the reasoning behind her mother’s orders may be understood at least a bit, it seems cruel. Even her father’s portrait is hidden from her until her marriage. However, once she marries, she has the freedom to both see her father for the first time, in that portrait, and read his poetry. She even found some parts unsettling and later, when she knew more of his deeds, even sees the evidence of them in the poems.

Since she was a child, Ada was interested in mathematics (and Flyology that was eventually forbidden by her mother and called mania). This culminates in Ada meeting Babbage (with Differential and later Analytical Engine) and his friends, including a female mathematician Mrs Somerwille. Ada later chooses a man to marry, who does not prevent her from engaging in her passions with maths.

The book is readable and enjoyable, giving one the look into what Ada’s life looked like. It is obvious (and later explicitly told in Author’s Notes) that the author did a lot of research (and from what I know of Ada, quite well). There is a long list of sources that she used and that gives the reader the chance to learn more about the topics raised in the book.

To finish with another praise, I really liked that the titles of the chapters were taken from poems by Lord Byron, which otherwise do not feature in this novel.

 

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