cover image Enchantress of Numbers

Enchantress of Numbers

Jennifer Chiaverini. Dutton, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-101-98520-5

This intricate fictional memoir of Ada Lovelace, considered the first computer programmer, by Chiaverini (Fates and Traitors) combines biography with the style of a novel of manners. The novel opens with a lengthy prologue imagining the courtship and brief marriage of the rather odious George Gordon Lord Byron, the sixth Baron Byron, and the restrained Anne Isabella Milbanke, eleventh Baroness Wentworth. Shortly after the birth of their only child, Augusta Ada Byron, in 1815, the pair split and Byron left England, never to return or see his daughter again. Despite his absence, Ada credits the great poet with casting a shadow across her life, and her mother constantly searches for signs of Byron’s mania in her. Though Ada’s keen interest in mathematics is clear from almost the beginning, it is only her association with Charles Babbage that leads to her now-famous creation of the first ever computer program. Period fans will delight in the details of gowns, suitors, and rivals that fill the pages until Ada’s rapid romance with and then marriage to William, Lord King, who will eventually become the first Earl of Lovelace. Chiaverini’s novel is a wonderful blend of history and fiction, poetry and math. [em](Dec.) [/em]