1. In chapter 6, Sharp Is The Knife, And Sudden Is The Stroke, Ada’s grandmother dies and Wentworth estate goes to Lady Annabella Byron. Lady Byron’s annual income increased from five hundred pounds to four thousand five hundred pounds. Ada notes of her mother’s generosity in giving her aunt Augusta game from the estate, then and going forward. Later, Lord Byron dies and Ada’s mother gives the new Lord Byron two thousand pounds per annum.
Why do you think that Ada says? “I have always been proud of my mother for her generosity, even though as I regretted that she had not offered it more frequently to me.”
What does it say about their relationship? What do you think Ada means?
2. With the death of Lord Byron, Lady Byron was financially independent. She was empowered to live exactly as she wants without deferring to any man. That was a very special privilege known to a very few women of that time period. Discuss how this change of situation impacted Lady Byron and Ada and what it meant for them. Why did the press torment Lady Byron with slander and ridicule so much?
3. With the death of Ada’s grandmother, Lord Byron and her grandfather, Ada only had her mother. Do you think Ada’s fear of Death taking her mother away impacted how she viewed her mother and her world? Why did Ada feel so unloved and unprotected?
4. Ada grew up with many nurses and governesses and her mother being away frequently. How does living like this affect Ada as she is growing up?
5. Why was Ada interested in Flyology? What did flight mean to her in terms of mathematics and symbolically?
6. Discuss Ada’s friendship with Mrs. Somerville. What sort of relationship did they have? How does this distinguish woman affect Ada?
7. Did you feel that Ada got her what she wanted with the birth of her children? Was her duty fulfilled so she could pursue her interests?
8. After the shocking reveal of Lord Byron and his sister Augusta, did you feel that Lady Byron was justified in keeping the truth from her daughter. Did you think she did the right thing? How did you feel about her after that?
9. The book takes place in a period where there were lots of changes, especially in technology which helped industry. Did you feel that the Difference Engine was a possibility that could have been built in that time period or was it too abstract and complicated?
10. Ada and her mother mixed with lots of rich, powerful, and intellectual individuals. Did it surprise you that Ada was close friends with Dickens?
11. The chapter titles in the book were from verses of Lord Byron’s poems.
Here is a sample:
“My Way is to Begin with the Beginning”
“Sole Daughter of my House and Heart”
“I Know that Thou Wilt Love Me”
“Dull Hate as Duty Should be Taught”
“Smiles Form the Channel of a Future Tear”
“Wishing Each Other, not Divorced, but Dead”
“Sharp is the Knife, and Sudden is the Stroke”
“New Shores Descried makes Every Bosom Gray”
“More Restless Than the Swallow in the Skies”
Did you like them? Were they suited to the book? Did it enhance your enjoyment of the book?
12. Enchantress of Numbers begins with a prologue which centers on Lady Annabella Byron viewpoint. The rest of the book is written in Ada’s viewpoint. Was the author Chiaverini successful in making the story plausible from Ada’s viewpoint? What drawbacks are there in starting Ada’s story as a child of seven weeks? How did you feel about structure of the book?
13. What aspect of the book did you find most surprising?
14. After reading the book were you curious to discover more about Ada, or her father Lord Byron?
15. How does the title of the book relate to Ada? Who called her that? What significance does it have?
16. After Ada publishes her first scientific paper about the Analytical Engine, it was received with great acclaim until it was discovered that it was written by a woman. Was that surprising to you? Discuss the difference in society’s attitudes towards women in 1800s and now.
17. Did Enchantress of Numbers meet your expectations? Who would you recommend it to?
Enhance Your Book Club:
Read some of Lord Byron poetry and prose at your book club meeting.