Charles and Ada by James Essinger

Charles and Ada by James Essinger – The Computer’s Most Passionate Partnership – was a book I wanted to read for a while and it was so disappointing when I finally got the chance to read it. Firstly, despite its name is mostly about Charles. Ada instead “offered Charles charm, companionship, society, feminine graces and good looks (Ada was not a great beauty, but she was elegant and handsome) at a time when he very badly needed all those things.” (page 195)

It gets even better, when, at page 200, he writes: “Male computer scientists who are still anti-Ada would do better to read the above paragraph by the remarkable genius who actually knew Ada, than condemn her because of their own misogynistic prejudice.” So, these MALES wrote something nasty about Ada, but he talked nicely about her. I was amazed by how crazy this sounded. Ada appears as a companion, a nice woman to have around, and he talks again and again if they had an affair or if her mother would have approved of their marriage. If that’s not female empowerment and setting the record straight… what is?!

Charles and Ada by James Essinger

Besides this, the book is pretty poor overall. Each chapter starts with a quote from someone, that is long and rather pointless, e.g. a quote from Shakespeare or from his own work of fiction. On top of that he quotes letters and documents in full. Reading a he-said-she-said kind of narrative is harder to follow. Short quotes with analysis would have been better. I mean, the book is supposed to be a biography and not a collection of primary sources.

For someone with his credentials, the book is particularly bad (not sure why I gave it 2 stars when I finished it, it should have been 1, but I’m not changing the rating. I rate the books exactly when I finish them.).

Charles and Ada by James Essinger

Details about the picture: a Victorian cup, of course
My rating: 2/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: no
Published by: The History Press
Year it was published: 2020 (first published in 2019)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Biography
Pages: 256

About the author: James Essinger is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He studied English Language and Literature at University of Oxford. He taught English in Finland for three nine-month sessions. He also speaks Finnish, German, and French.
Website & Social Media Links: –

2 thoughts on “Charles and Ada by James Essinger”

    • Aww, you are right, it’s not clear. Well, Charles was the one who invented the idea of the computer and Ada is the first programmer, daughter of Lord Byron. This happened in mid-19th century.

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