Mini Audiobook Review: Enchantress of Numbers

14 Oct

One of my book clubs chose Enchantress of Numbers to further our goals of reading biographical fiction. We chose the book featuring Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace because we had read and enjoyed author Jennifer Chiaverini’s books and because it was not set in WWII. 😉 The story revolves around Lord Byron’s only child, Ada, and her fascination with all things mathematical and mechanical. Ada was quite the prodigy and is credited as the first computer programmer. There’s even a STEM holiday commemorating her. It was a long book, emphasis on long. While it did shed light on the era — Regency and early Victorian England — it was a bit of a slog. I listened to the audiobook borrowed from my library and had to renew twice. Another of our members stated that she felt like it was a school assignment to dread. No glowing recs from my group. It did emphasize the differences between educational and societal norms for women of the time and in our modern world. Ada was shaped by the legacy of her absent father and her domineering mother. I felt for Ada, but wish that the author had written more concisely. One of my group said she kept going with the novel in anticipation of something happening.

While we really can’t recommend the book, we were impressed by all that Ada Byron King accomplished. As always, reviews are subjective, but none of my group liked this book. Perhaps we were just not the target audience.

(I borrowed the audiobook from my library via Libby. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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.

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