Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini

Title: Enchantress of Numbers
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Published: December 2017, Dutton Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 448 pages
Source: Publisher

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini illuminates the fascinating life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace--Lord Byron's daughter, the world's first computer programmer, and a woman whose exceptional contributions to science and technology have been too long unsung. 

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. 

In Enchantress of Numbers, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini 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.

My thoughts: I have long been a fan of Jennifer Chiaverini for her historical fiction and it should be no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to read and review her latest novel. I always find I get such a great education while reading her books and this latest one was no exception!

I fully admit that I did not know who Ada Lovelace was before reading this book, but I am so intrigued by her, as I am by every woman who has not been given her rightful due in our history. I love that Jennifer Chiaverini is helping to justify this by bringing Ada's story to light. And what an important role Ada played in history and one I think should be highlighted - especially for our young girls today. The world's first computer programmer...what a feat!

What I love about Jennifer's books is that they are never technical and they are never too bogged done in drivel. She gives what I feel is a good picture of the person's life she is writing about, allowing us as the reader to feel that by the end of the book we have been given intimate access to their thoughts and who they really were.
Ada had a rather complicated relationship with her mother, to say the least, and she never really knew her father until long after he was gone. Jennifer Chiaverini does a wonderful job of bringing these relationships to life, going so far as to making you, the reader, feel sympathy for Ada. Her mother was borderline obsessive at times, basically forbidding her to use her imagination, instead urging her to focus her energies on the maths and sciences. 

Ada was a woman ahead of her time. It is unfortunate that she never lived long enough to see her ideas fully come to fruition. It is also unfortunate that she lived during a time when women's ideas and intelligence were still believed to be inferior to that of men's. She had to fight to get her ideas listened to and even after proving her ideas would work, she was still surrounded by naysayers. 

This is the type of book that I love picking that brings these lesser-known historical figures to life. I really enjoyed getting to know Ada Lovelace, an extraordinary woman.

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