Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Signature of All Things

Firstly, I wanted to start this post with saying how painful the wait has been for this title to finally publish.  Many in the book industry received their ARCs months and months ago.  It's a big book but we didn't need that much time to read it!  From my notes I finished the book in early July and I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to discuss it with friends, family, industry colleagues but the book still hasn't been released here in Australia! It's kinda killing me.  So I posted my review on our work site and I thought I'd post it here too.  Because at the end of the day, this is a mighty fine book and one historical fiction lovers will enjoy immensely.

Not having read any of Elizabeth Gilbert's previous books, including the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, I didn't know what to expect. I must say I found The Signature of All Things quite an experience! It's an interesting, well researched, fascinating book, an epic novel, and an incredibly engaging read. 
The Signature of All Things introduces us to the life and times of the absolutely amazing Alma Whittaker, daughter of the equally amazing Henry Whittaker who from a poor background in the UK becomes the richest man in Philadelphia. Henry is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer, who crosses the paths of Sir Joseph Banks and Captain Cook, whereas Alma’s mother is a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, "conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones)."

Alma, our main focus of the book, inherits much from her father including her thirst for knowledge and keen intellect. Told in the late 1700s and most of the 1800s, we experience many delights - history, art, travel and science - as we go on a journey of discovery. We uncover much through Alma's eyes and what we see is really quite extraordinary. She's independent but restricted by her sex, she loves wholeheartedly but mistakenly, and she takes a leap of faith to discover herself - travelling to Tahiti to Amsterdam without the luxuries she surrounded herself as she was growing up.  Alma is fascinating. One description described her as "a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern".  She is unforgettable.

If I had to rave about one thing, it would be the research of the author. Outstanding and impressive - five stars to Elizabeth Gilbert!  If I have to complain about something, it would be my own inability to follow some of the scientific discussions. One day I hope to read it again, just to re-discover the woman that was Alma. A strong and interesting character, she made this book an enjoyable and engaging read ...

Bloomsbury is definitely onto a winner with this book. Booksellers, libraries, and readers, get ready! This will be everywhere!!!!

ISBN 9781408850114 | Bloomsbury | October 2013 | Trade Paperback | 512 pages | $29.99

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