SOCIAL SCIENCES

Enchantress of Numbers

Dutton. Dec. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781101985205. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101985229. F
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The daughter of England's beloved celebrity, Romantic poet Lord Byron, Ada Byron is rigidly protected from anything that might possibly develop imaginative or poetical tendencies passed along to her through her father's tainted Byron blood. No one could have been more determined to keep her out of harm's way than her mother, who left the doomed poet a month after his daughter was born and took their lives into her own capable, if controlling hands. Surrounded by nursemaids and governesses, Ada, whose rebellious nature longs to escape, is permitted one refuge—her study of mathematics, but even in this she is closely monitored to make sure she is not carried away by her enthusiasms. Eventually, with the help of a loving husband, a brilliant female mentor, and a coterie of intellectual friends, Ada finally achieves her goals, going on to develop with Charles Babbage the first computer, though it took the world nearly a century to recognize her achievements.
VERDICT After a slow start, Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker) deftly draws a compelling study of a complicated woman whose relationship with her mother was equally complex. This will appeal to those interested in women in science and the dawn of the Victorian age. [See Prepub Alert, 7/26/17; "Editors' Fall Picks, LJ 9/1/17.]

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