Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Signature of All Things

Title:  The Signature of All Things
Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert
Publication Information:  Viking Books. 2013. 501 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book arrived as a paperback advance uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "She knew that the world was plainly divided into those who fought an unrelenting battle to live, and those who surrendered and died. This was a simply fact. ... This fact was the very mechanism of nature - the driving force behind all existence, behind all transmutation, behind all variation - and it was the explanation for the entire world."

The Signature of All Things starts with Henry Whittaker, a poor but enterprising young man who makes his living as a thief. He gets caught, but is allowed leeway because of the respect people have for his father. He is put to work, and through his work and some shady dealings becomes a very wealthy man. The bulk of the book is about his daughter Alma.

Alma is an only child living a rather secluded life. She develops an interest in botany, and her specialty becomes, of all things, mosses. Along the way, discoveries come into and change her life. The book has much description of her discovery of and secret use of a text on sexual pleasure and of her work with plants. Along the way, people come in and out of her life. Prudence is adopted in to the family and becomes a sister until a rift drives them apart. Ambrose is the artist who steals her heart but is unable to be a husband to her. Along the way, places come in and out of her life. White Acres with its large indoor botanical gardens is the Whittaker estate in England. Alma also travels the world, some for botanical research and some searching for the people in her life.

I am not even sure where to start with this book. Given the previous writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, I expected a lot more. This book is slow moving and difficult to read - boring with a set of unlikable characters. The most interesting component of the book is probably some of the descriptions of the natural world and plant life. However, if that's what I want to read, I would pick a nonfiction book about the topic. If this had not been a review copy, I would have abandoned the book. However, I did read it and am left wondering .... What was the point?

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