Reading this book has been such a joy! And I cannot recommend it highly enough. Although I thought one of her other books — EAT, PRAY, LOVE — was just okay, I think this book showcases Elizabeth Gilbert’s true genius for storytelling. Awarded five stars on Goodreads.
On the simplest level, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is the story of one woman’s unfolding life during the 1800s. But that doesn’t really do it justice. Because there are so many rich stories contained within. It’s much more an adventure story of someone trying to understand life.
Alma Whittaker, the protagonist, is a child of science who never follows the role expected of a traditional woman during her day. Instead, Alma remains devoted to her passion for knowledge.
Her focus is the world of books, especially those related to her lifelong fascination with botany. But there is also her father’s rags-to-riches story — from poor boy with ambition to seaman to tyrannical tycoon. There is Alma’s beautiful adopted sister who remains a mystery for much of the book. And Alma’s dearest friend, who lives on the edge of madness.
Alma travels the world — from Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and we readers discover new and absorbing stories in each location. Stories representative of the dynamic 19th century with abolitionists, Christian missionaries, scientific research, whaling ships, Charles Darwin, and spirituality. All the while we are wrestling to understand concepts like humanity, love, and self-sacrifice. I found myself eager to turn every page and unsure what drama would unfold next in Alma’s life.
Consequently, I highly recommend this novel — for its variety, adventure, and creative writing style. You’re in for a real literary treat.