I, Ada

By Julia Gray (Andersen Press)

I, Ada By Julia Gray

Bennet's review
This historical-fiction novel was particularly good read as I found it to be very interesting. I did not know too much about this period of time, but I know that the Industrial Revolution and further improvements must have urbanised the cities more. Also, the views of the people at the time were very different like the fact that women were not allowed to go to universities. I thought that the most intriguing character, besides Ada, was Charles Babbage as he pictured a new invention that could change society at that time and that he thought of both the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, its successor. His determination and personality, as well as Ada’s, also helped my find him more interesting. The plot, as a whole, was also thrilling due to the tension and excitement. This book has definitely inspired me to find out more about Ada Lovelace and about her father, Lord Byron, and Charles Babbage. Therefore, I would recommend this novel to teenagers and above who love to know about this period in history and who generally like historical-fiction novels like this.

Fatima's review
Society has always been ruled by machines. Machines that not only make procedures faster, but life safer. These machines were created through extreme care, precision, an most importantly, ideas. The inventors who create such machines need not only to have knowledge, but also ideas, which lead to curiosity and finally to innovation. These important ideas need to be let out and used, so that they can influence society. When a person with such ideas cannot share them, and is instead forced into a confinement of society’s expectations, it can cause turmoil. This turmoil is summarised in Julia Gray’s “I, Ada’ in which computer programmer Ada Lovelace’s life is documented in first person narration. The book talks about, in detail, her interest in mathematics, her education, family problems and desires not to fulfil society’s expectations. It not only details Lovelace’s early life, but also the ground-breaking invention of the Analytical Engine and mechanical programming. 

The book is divided into three parts: Ada’s life aged five to thirteen. Part two aged sixteen to seventeen, and the final part, aged seventeen to nineteen. 

One of the main themes is parenting. Ada Lovelace’s parents were Lady Noel Byron and Lord Byron, and at the time, Lord Byron was one of England’s most famous poets. Her parents had separated shortly after her birth for reasons she never understood. Her mother was wealthy ad highly educated, and wanted her to receive the best education. Such an education would involve mathematics, French, history and geography, with harsh punishments enforced for improperness. This form of education would be a blessing for any middle class Victorian, as several girls would not be expected to know so much and were not required to learn. 

From a very young age, the audience is immediately aware of her high intellect. Ada enjoys thinking, imagining and solving arithmetic problems, which was unlike a standard Victorian girl. She loves to move around and take in the nature of the world, which is a problem to her mother’s expectations. Lady Byron always wanted her daughter to be more practical than poetical and it seems she wanted to confine her daughter rather than let her be herself. So, from the small age of five, Ada already has a problematic relationship with her mother and sees her governess, Ms Stamp, as more of a mother figure. Ada’s mother, born Anne, has a short temper and always likes to have control over Ada. Ada’s imagination is always dulled in her presence and Anne cannot seem to mend her ways of parenting until much later on. 

Another key theme is curiosity, which comes to prominence in the second part of the book. Anne arranges a tour around Europe, and during the tour Ada sees beautiful landscapes and architecture, which she grows fascinated by. She is also curious about it, and decides that she wants to be a writer, a career in which she would be able to express her ideas and question. From her observation in Europe, she also understands the importance of ideas. She observes birds, and wonders about the science of flight. She then has an idea, an idea to make a pair of human sized wings and design them to satisfy her curiosity of flight. She names this study flyology. 

Most importantly, in this part of the book, she visits the place where her father (who had by now died) had lived after he left Anne Byron. Ada grows more curious about her father’s house in Geneva, and tries to ask her mother. Her mother, however, gives very vague answers and seems reluctant to talk about Ada’s father. As Asda’s curiosity on this matter grows, so does Anne’s hesitancy to talk about it. This puts further strains on their relationship.

The third part explores the theme of freedom. Ada, as her teenage years progress, wants to be independent, to be able to think, feel and imagine, rather than be constantly monitored by her mother. She becomes so wanting of this freedom and ability to discover herself, that she begins and affair with her tutor, James Hopkins. The two are quickly discovered, and the affair is made into a scandal, with Ada being nicknamed ‘the most vulgar woman in England’. The scandal is very damaging to her reputation, and she realises that a woman can never achieve freedom without damaging her or her family’s image. At this point, Ada takes a break from her education and comes to a realisation: that women were limited and could never achieve their full potential because of how society wanted them to be. Women, even those with a good education and intellectual strength, could not go to university or be known. Even Mary Sommerville, whom she forms a friendship with, believes that only men were able to hold genius. In the midst of all this, however, she meets the man who would go on to make her famous. Charles Babbage. Babbage immediately catches Ada’s eye, and Babbage realises her genius after she made annotations on his design of the difference machine. The two become good friends, and Babbage helps her out of her lost state. 

The books end with Ada being happily married to William King, count of Lovelace. Although she is married, she went on to help Babbage with his design, analysis and eventual making of the Analytical Engine. 

In conclusion, ‘I, Ada’ let’s the reader understand the struggles brilliant minds have to undergo, socially and mentally. It gives us an overview into the mind of such a genius. After reading, the reader can see the amount of shame put onto people who have ideas, and who want to influence the way we live, especially women. We then realise how dangerous these criticisms can be, as such shunned ideas can prove to be life-changing. It emphasises the importance of creativity and imagination. 

This is why, overall, I loved reading this book, as it can also let modern society understand the importance of innovation, freedom, and most importantly, ideas.

Gill's review
A really interesting book about someone I had never heard of. I had to find out about her father and her after reading it because I wanted to know more. It was really good to read how she felt about her mother and their relationship and how her mother kept secrets from her to try and protect her. It was also good to see how women felt at this time about education and being a wife and mother but also wanting to do other things like maths. I would definitely pass this book onto other people especially if they are interested in history and computing.

Jia's review
The book interested me from the beginning. I did not know much about Ada apart from the fact she was the first programmer but being a girl who is considering becoming a programmer, even the little I knew always inspired me. 

I think it is therefore no shock to anyone that my favourite character happened to be the protagonist - Ada. Ada’s mother never quite sat right with me. I understand being protective and perhaps it’s just a different cultural thing, but her behaviour never seemed justified. She was still relatable though and her motherly love always came across right.

The book taught me more about Ada’s personal life. The part that shocked me most was definitely her relationship with her tutor. Again, maybe it was just something from the times they were in, but a 16-year-old and he tutor never seems right. What was more shocking was the way society treated afterwards, as if it was her fault.  

I have recently discovered good reads and I can say that out of the 60+ books I can remember I have read; this book is one of the few that has sincerely touched my heart. Reading Ada’s story changed the way I perceived her before. She was not some glorious figure fighting for women (although what she did, did help) but she was… a girl. A regular teenage girl who had a hard life. Reading’s Ada story pushed me to continue with programming and I think I will forever be in the debt of the author, Ada and my teacher who recommended the book to me for that.

For any female (but not limited to) who needs inspiration for what they want to do, read this book. It will hook you right from the beginning.

Lola's review
Written by Julia Gray, I Ada follows the teenage years of Ada Lovelace mixing what is already known about her with fiction. Although being known mainly as the first ever computer programmer, the book focuses on Ada’s education and her longing to build a relationship with her father, the infamous poet, Lord Byron. 

I particularly liked Ada’s character development, as well as the evolution of the relationship between her and her mother as throughout the book she becomes less submissive towards her demands and more headstrong as she grows older. I think the two character contrast each other to present Ada as highly unusual for a women of the time (early 1800s) as she never let her gender prevent her from her interests in maths and machines. Ada’s mother is also very clever and forward thinking, but irritatingly focused on her and Ada’s reputation, so much so that she would put it before Ada’s happiness. 

An aspect of the book I did not enjoy so much was Ada vilifying her mother for her father leaving them. I felt that as Ada is supposed to be the smart protagonist of the book it did not make sense for her to glorify a character who had been absent for all of her childhood by choice and had not even bothered to meet her. Instead, she decides to blame her mother, deciding herself that she must have drove him away, and therefore hates her for it. 

I found the historical aspects of the book very interesting, especially the technology. The book is set in the 1820s-30s which is a time period I was not so familiar with, yet I was surprised about the lack of technology. The second half of the book focuses a bit on the calculating machinery of Charles Babbage, who Ada helps on his ‘Analytical Engine’ by writing the machine algorithm for him, earning her the title of the worlds first computer programmer. I enjoyed this storyline, as it is arguably the most interesting plot of the book as her work on the Analytical Engine was the first ever example of computer programming, and something that has shaped today’s society, but I felt Julia Gray could have expanded on it more, and less on Ada’s hatred for her mother. 

I also learned more about the lives of women at the time, but the book is set from the point of view of a rich, white, educated women and I felt that had Ada been from a poorer background, the issues women faced may have been a more prominent issue, and she would have most likely not been working with other rich mathematicians like Charles Babbage. 

The overall plot of the book is rather light-hearted in the sense that there are no life-or-death situations and Ada’s biggest struggle is feeling disconnected from her mother, but it makes the plot more interesting as a more serious or frightening tone takes the focus away from the history and Ada’s true story. 

Overall, I would recommend this to other students with an interest in historical fiction, particularly in feminism or the development of technology.

Leah's review
I Ada was a great book and shows how a young girl helped change the world in the future. Ada is my favorite character as she proved that she had a strong mind and was able to create a loom that would work like a computer program. I never knew Ada Lovelace created a programming machine, so it was exciting to learn more about her and how she has helped with programming today. I liked the time it was set in because when I learnt about the Victorian era she was never mentioned because she wasn’t as significant as other people in the 1800s. a part that stands out from the book is that it shows what she did when women weren’t as appreciated as they were today, and people didn’t think that they could do anything like she did because they were supposed to stay home and clean. I would recommend this book to other pupils as it tells you about a unique person and how they were extremely smart to create such a unique thing in the past. Finally I learnt that Ada was a strong female character in history and helped create our future today with technology.

Sam's review
I really enjoyed I Ada, as it was fascinating, and I found myself reading it constantly. I found Ada a very interesting character, and I felt I related to some of the descriptions of her mind. It gave me an insight into the poet Lord Byron, and more of an understanding of the Romantic Era and the Age of Enlightenment. I knew a little bit about this time, and had a casual interest in Romantic poetry, but I have learnt much more of the Age of Enlightenment, which coincidentally we are learning a bit about it English. I thought it bore resemblance to a bildungsroman in its premise, and constantly left me wanting to read on. I have, since reading the book, looked at Lord Byron's Darkness, which is referenced several times in the book, and makes me think of the current climate crisis, in its almost desperation for survival taking priority over authority and societal institutions. The lines 'And men forgot their passions in the dread/Of this their desolation' and 'The thrones/The palaces of crowned kings—the huts/The habitations of all things which dwell/Were burnt for beacons' in particular convey this for me. I would highly recommend I Ada as it is a very interesting book on one of this country's great visionaries. 

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