Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: England, 1816-1850
***I received an eARC copy of Enchantress of Numbers from the publisher, Dutton, via NetGalley***
*** this post contains affiliate links ***
Review: Interesting history, but a bit long. Enchantress of Numbers tells the story of Ada Byron King, the Countess of Lovelace, who was Lord Byron’s daughter, and is considered the first computer programmer.
Written by Jennifer Chiaverini, Enchantress of Numbers starts off with a lengthy prologue that details Byron’s relationship with Ada’s mother, Lady Annabella. While this prologue and detail of Byron and Annabella’s relationship was necessary to set the stage, the problem here is that Byron is so fascinating, so full of personality and drama that the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the magnetism of his story.
Byron’s daughter, Ada, narrates Enchantress of Numbers and we see solely into her head and thoughts. While she was passionate about mathematics and learning, unfortunately she never quite leapt off the page for me. I could feel for Ada, and how the legend of her father shaped her mother’s choices in her upbringing, and some scenes were difficult to read. Difficult because Ada’s mother wouldn’t allow Ada to have any imagination at all, worried that she would follow her father’s path. This feels so cruel as Ada yearns for fairy tales and information about her father.
Since Ada focuses so much on mathematics, and I must admit math has never held my interest, some of the sections were very slow and boring to me. Now, someone who loves math and has a mechanical mind might find this fascinating, as Ada meets Mr Babbage and learns about his Difference Engine, and works away on solving problems with the machine.
Before I read Enchantress of Numbers, I had no idea who Ada Lovelace was, and about her contributions to computers. I can appreciate her drive and determination, and this book really showcases her talents and her story, but it was too long and slow in places. Since we just hear from Ada’s POV, I think the book would’ve been more interesting had it been told from multiple POVs. I really would’ve loved to see inside the head of Ada’s mother, Lady Annabella. Other potential POVs would be Augusta (Byron’s sister), Lord Byron himself, and Mary Somerville, a mathematician who takes Ada under her wing. I also would’ve loved to peek inside Babbage’s thoughts as well.
So while Enchantress of Numbers told an interesting, important story, it felt very long (Goodreads has the length at 448 pages) and parts of it were dull, especially when compared to the dramatic prologue. Those with mathematical minds may really love this! It was truly wonderful to read a book where the main female character was focused on math and science.
Bottom Line: Interesting enough, but it has some dull parts.
Does this sound like a good read to you? Have you read other books by Jennifer Chiaverini? This was my first and I’d like to read more!