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New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini illuminates the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter and the world’s first computer programmer.
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.
Enchantress of Numbers unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing—a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, Fates and Traitors, and other acclaimed works of historical fiction, as well as the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. She lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Enchantress of Numbers"
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Chiaverini.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide
1. How do you think the loneliness and isolation of Ada’s childhood and her mother’s jealousy of the nurses Ada loves affect her as she grows into adolescence?
2. What is it about flight that captivates Ada’s imagination? The scientific aspects of Flyology fascinate her, of course, but what else could Ada’s desire to create wings for herself represent?
3. How does her status as the daughter of the renowned poet Lord Byron shape Ada’s life? What is it like growing up in the shadow of his brilliance and infamy? What similarities and differences do you see between Ada’s experiences and those of the children of celebrities today?
4. Why do you think Ada’s mother was so fearful of Ada’s imagination and “the influence of [her] bad Byron blood?” Why does she forbid her daughter to indulge in fairy tales, poetry, and make-believe play, even though she herself writes poetry?
5. The first time Ada visits Babbage’s home, she is introduced to his dancing automaton, which arrests her attention. She draws closer to it, “longing to trace the lines of the dancer’s face with my fingertip. Even her eyes seemed alive, full of mischief and imagination.” Why was she so fascinated by the Silver Lady?
6. After an argument with her mother, Ada muses, “I realized that the only way I could escape her control any sooner would be to marry.” What are Ada’s expectations for marriage? Are they fulfilled? Does she enjoy more independence or less as a married woman, or are her circumstances essentially unchanged?
7. Ada mentions that Mrs. Somerville, though very accomplished in science and mathematics, was barred from the Royal Society because she was a woman. How is Ada affected by this? Does she feel the loss of this exclusion? Why or why not?
8. Why do you think Ada was so enthralled by Babbage’s inventions, both the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine? How does Ada’s poetic and imaginative mind help her understand their potential even more so than Babbage himself?
9. At various periods throughout her life, friends and family worry that Ada is dangerously obsessed with mathematics and science, often describing her pursuit of knowledge as a “mania.” Ada fiercely rejects this label. Do you agree with Ada, or do you think her friends and family had some cause for concern? Why or why not?
10. Compare and contrast Ada and Lord King’s courtship to her mother and Lord Byron’s and their early years of marriage.
11. Ada’s love for her mother wavers between reverence and resentment. How does this affect Ada’s own childrearing?
12. All her life, Ada has been told that her foremost duty is to marry and produce an heir. Why is this not enough for her? Why is she driven to create a “Great Work” of mathematics or science as her legacy?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this novel could hardly put it down.
I enjoyed reading this book, unique and interesting
This is the fictionalized story of Ada Lovelace, the woman credited with writing the first computer program in the 1800s for Charles Babbage’s then theoretical, mechanical calculating machine. As the daughter of the famous Lord Byron, she struggles to follow her passions when her mother views any imagination as a sign she might be dangerously like her father. She also has to face down many people who believe women are constitutionally unsuited to doing math. All this, while being expected to marry suitably, provide her husband with an heir, and avoid scandalizing society along the way! I loved the style of this book right away. It felt as though it could truly have been written by Ada, with a vocabulary and slightly formal tone that reminded me of classics from that era. I was also fascinated by the topic – I couldn’t resist picking up a book about Ada Lovelace! Those two things carried me through the first 150 pages, during which nothing much happened. Ada’s father was horrible to her mother and Ada’s mother was horrible to her in turn. It was all very depressing and went on for pages. Throughout, Ada also deals with an infuriating amount of sexism, with many of her math tutors fearing that passionately studying math will make her sick. Or worse, that her passion indicates she already has a mania for which she could be locked up in an insane asylum. The remainder of the book was well worth getting through the slower first section and the depressing bits though! In fact, I think knowing the struggles she faced made the rest even better. I loved reading about Ada coming into her own as an adult and finding a focus for her love of math and science with Babbage’s machine. Her confidence in her ability to do original work and her bravery in pushing on were truly admirable. Hearing about her first original, published work nearly made feel a bit teary at her accomplishments. I also enjoyed hearing about her interactions with many famous scientists and novelists – Babbage, of course, but also Darwin, Lyle, Dickens, and more. It connected her to a lot of science history I’ve previously read about. Despite the slow start, or perhaps even because of it, I enjoyed this immensely. Especially if you’re someone who like learning about science history or women in history, this would be a great book to pick up.
An absolutely FANTASTIC historical novel! My attention was captured by two things when I chose to read this book. The first is the author. I have read some of her contemporary books and enjoyed them. The second was the phrase that Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer. I have loved computers for many years. Right out of high school I joined the Air Force and became a computer operator. When the book began I had doubts as to whether I would like it or not. I’m not big on reading non-fiction and from the very beginning the style of writing clearly points to being written as an autobiography would be. Much to my surprise I was completely captivated by the story. I found myself drawn in by Ada and the heartache she bore throughout her life. I kept hoping and praying that good things would come and she would find happiness. There were joys and happy instances sprinkled here and there which were like bright rays of sunshine. I was fascinated to read about the friendships that she developed as an young woman. Their interactions were very compelling to read. As with most stories of actual historical figures we see much of the sinful nature and dark sides of individuals. I received a free eBook copy of this novel from the publisher and through NetGalley. I have chosen to write this review to express my personal opinion. Disclaimer: *Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*
ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS by JENNIFER CHIAVERINI I half-expected to be bored by this tale of mathematics — I was not. I was angry, sad, jubilant, amazed, enchanted! The wisdom and truth shine in this book, despite so much sorrow and discouragement. Women, of course, could not survive the rigors of serious study, nor did they have anything of original value to contribute. When “it came out that A.A.L. was . . . Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace” . . . its perceived value as a scientific work precipitously declined.” . . . and yet she persisted . . . and the Analytical Engine opened possibilities for future computers. “Ours was a false dawn, a soft, brilliant glow . . . eventually day would break in truth, and our sun would rise and it would shine more brightly than eighteen of us could imagine.” “Intellect and imagination . . . were not two separate faculties, but two halves of the same genius.” “I had built my own wings, and with them I would soar to the stars.” While I cringed at the restrictions and her need to carefully appease her unreasonable mother, I enjoyed other examples of the gentility of manners. “Mr. Babbage owed me no apology for what he had done, but as his friend I did owe him my loyalty and support.” I loved the poignant imagery of changing closeness in marriage, from “united, standing side by side, hands clasped, faces turned toward the same distant horizon” to hands merely grazing each other, to “at an angle, our backs slightly turned upon each other, my hands holding a book, his arms folded across his chest.” I loved it! You might as well.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Jennifer Chiaverini is known in the historical fiction world. For me she has written some really great books that have a foot in historical fact, but have a bit of fiction added to make it a good story! This one had a bumpy start for me. With the prologue being quite lengthy and concerning how Lord and Lady Byron met and "fell in love" and how Ada was conceived, I from the start HATED Lord Byron and was nervous that I would not enjoy this one. As soon as Ada is given the reigns of the story and narrates her own childhood I was ready for a good book.
I generously received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley. This is the fictional story of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace whose father was Lord George Gordon Byron 6th Baron of Byron the famous poet and her mother Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke, 11th Baroness of Wentworth, whose marriage fell apart shortly after Ada was born. She was raised mostly by her Mother's doting Grandparents, a long range of Governesses, Tutors, occasionally her Mother and her Mother's friends. Taught from a young age that her imagination is wicked, becoming a poet like her Father would be a terrible thing and encouraged to seek knowledge particularly of the Math, Science and Music variety, she had quite the interesting and yet at times lonely upbringing. Any time her imagination tried to soar, her Mother would clip those wings and repeatedly remind her that she'd better stay on the ground and keep her imagination in a locked box while also knowing how to be a well off lady. It's a wonder that she grew into being such a kind, considerate and creative woman with an amazing Mathematician . She became close friends with the brilliant Charles Babbage( known today as the Father of the PC), Charles Dickens, fellow Mathematician Mary Somerville (who was also her idol) and many other fascinating people that had a hand in helping shape the world today. She was a Mother to three, loving wife, devoted friend and had a rocky relationship with her Mother. She was passionate about trying to get the funding for her friend Babbage's Difference Engine to be shown to the world, even going so far as to write a series of notes as to he important this invention would be. One has to wonder how different life would be today if it had been successfully fully built at that time. She was a woman ahead of her time who really cared about those around her and it's a shame she didn't get the fame she had hoped for and not just because she was Lord Byron's daughter. Her life was cut short at the age of thirty six due to cancer which is tragic to say the least. One has to wonder what she may have accomplished had she lived to her seventies or eighties. It was such a pleasure to read this book and I enjoyed getting insight into how Ada's life may have been being a woman truly ahead of her time. This book has inspired me to want to know more about her and those she became friends with.
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 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.