HarperCollins: Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace

In Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace, Jennifer Chiaverini (Fates & Traitors) illuminates the life of the woman considered to be the world's first computer programmer. As the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the brilliant poet and infamous rascal, Ada is in the spotlight from birth. Her parents, mismatched in temperament, are estranged early in her life and she is raised to be rational and disciplined--everything her mercurial father is not.

Ada narrates this novel, looking back on her idiosyncratic life. She is a willful child and an early mathematics prodigy with no playmates or diversion because her mother hopes that "those Byronic branches and shoots can be pruned back." As a young adult, she gravitates to intellectual circles and meets inventor Charles Babbage, with his prototype of a number calculating machine. Ada quickly understands the magnitude of this invention more than he, saying it is capable of "vastly more than he could yet imagine."

As an adult, Ada comes to some understanding of the genius father she never knew. She vows "to become as great a mathematician as my father had been a poet." Yet skeptics and societal expectations constantly threaten to impede her work. Her efforts with the calculating machine are questioned even by its inventor. Ada's failing health, along with the patronizing view of women, resulted in her contributions to the study of mathematics being buried for centuries. Chiaverini once again shows her considerable skill breathing life into historical figures that are too little known. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.