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I Ada Rebel. Genius. Visionary.

I, Ada Ada Lovelace: Rebel. Genius. Visionary

Published: 3 Sep 2020

Paperback / softback, 336 pages

Recommended for age 14+

By Julia Gray

Published by Andersen Press Ltd

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Ada Byron is rich and clever, but she longs to be free. Free to explore all the amazing ideas that come to her imagination, like flying mechanical horses and stories inspired by her travels. Free to find love and passion beyond the watchful gaze of her mother and governesses.

And free to learn the full truth about her father, the notorious Lord Byron. Then Ada meets a man whose invention might just change the world - and he needs her visionary brilliance to bring it to life . .

. A wonderfully witty and poignant portrayal of the young life of Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician who is hailed as the world's first computer programmer.

Tagged significant lives and Victorians

I had a fascinating conversation with Julia Gray about Ada Lovelace, the subject of her new novel, I Ada.  Thanks to the letters preserved as part of the Byron estate, Julia was able to uncover so many details about the life of this extraordinary young woman and her unconventional upbringing.

Reviewed by Anne Thompson

I, Ada Rebel. Genius. Visionary is an absorbing and fascinating book telling the story of the early life of Ada Lovelace the 19th-century mathematician who is only now, long after her death, recognised as “the first computer programmer”. The joy of well researched historical fiction, particularly when based on a real-life figure, is that it fleshes out the facts creating a real person rather than a list of dates and events. Julia Gray’s writing is peppered with wit and an understanding of Ada as a young woman resulting in this being a book for readers to savour and enjoy whilst also being made aware of the attitudes,  lifestyles, and achievements of well-known 19th-century figures.

Ada was the daughter of the famous and notorious poet, Lord Bryon, a man she never knew and Annabella Millbanke, an accomplished mathematician. From an early age Ada is subjected to strict control by her mother who is determined that her daughter will not grow up to display what she perceives to be the failings of Bryon. Despite this, or possibly partly because of it, young Ada craves to learn more about her father and as she matures her imagination, creativity and desire for knowledge and understanding of ideas of all kinds develop. The troubled relationship between mother and daughter and Ada’s frequent ill-health makes her achievements even more impressive. In her afterword, Julia Gray refers to her writing process as ‘to imagine out’ from the sources to create the story and the narrative voice of Ada as she relates her experiences is strong and realistic. This is a young woman of considerable intellect but also of passion and imagination.

There are parallels between the attitudes of society towards Ada as the daughter of the renowned but scandalous Bryon and 21st-century gossip about, and obsession with, celebrity. Ada has to contend with gossip-based on who she is which in turn affects her moods and behaviour. This will be recognisable to today’s teen readers. Although in many ways a character with warmth we also witness her wilful attitude and her impetuous behaviour, which, particularly when she first experiences love, can have unpleasant consequences. The gradual dawning of her understanding of the possibilities created by Babbage’s machine is fascinating to observe and Ada’s increased social awareness and maturity are engaging.

An enjoyable read for its own sake I, Ada Rebel. Genius. Visionary. would also be valuable in the classroom with its obvious curriculum links to STEAM subjects and to Ada Lovelace Day marked in October. The references to Bryon and his poetry may also prompt the reader to explore this aspect further.

I am a retired school librarian with twenty years’ experience in school and public libraries. I now maintain links with school libraries as Chair of the Surrey Branch of the School Library Association and reviews for their quarterly journal. A past reviewer for The Bookbag website I maintain a blog offering regular news updates from the world of children’s books. A contributor to newsletters and journals, children’s books remain just as important to me in retirement as they did when working.