Title: The Signature of All Things
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
Publication date: 2014
Genre: Adult Fiction
Reviewer: Peta Browne
Elizabeth Gilbert – yes, of Eat, Pray, Love fame – has created an absorbing and engaging story in The Signature of All Things.
Not being into the whole Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon, I was initially unsure about this novel.
However, the synopsis intrigued with promises of adventure, discovery, and trailblazing. And it delivered.
Alma Whittaker was born in 1800 with botany in her blood.
Her grandfather was an orchardist at Kew Gardens, her father Henry became a collector of plant specimens from all over the world for Sir Joseph Banks, and her mother Beatrix’s family had long been custodians of Amsterdam’s Hortus gardens.
Henry’s botanical knowledge and his cunning entrepreneurial abilities led him to his fortune in the import and export of medicinal plants.
In Philadelphia he built a family estate befitting his new status.
Both Henry and Beatrix valued knowledge and education, particularly scientific knowledge.
With the luxury of wealth and supportive parents, Alma was afforded a superb education and the freedom to study her passion as it pleased her.
Unusually for the time, she published books and scientific papers and was expected to engage in vigorous discussions with her father’s friends in the scientific community.
But she was also a plain-looking girl who longed for friendship and love. Upon finding it, her beliefs and values were challenged as never before.
Alma is prompted to undertake an epic journey around the world in search of answers and, ultimately, contentment.
The Signature of All Things is a wonderfully well-written story which vividly transports you to Alma’s world.
It’s an interesting tale of privileged 1800s life and the old order-challenging scientific discovery that was happening at the time.
Rich in geography, botany, adventure, and human nature, Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things is one to add to the TBR (to be read) pile.
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