Elizabeth Gilbert is best known for her world-wide best-selling autobiography Eat Pray Love which was about her own journey of self-discovery, spirituality and travel. This girl’s own adventure was music to the ears of many young women who were already embarking on the same path as Gilbert.
This is Gilbert’s first fictional novel and one that could have wallowed in the vast shadow of her first success with Eat Pray Love. I have to admit I was a bit dubious about how well she would be able to pull off a fictional novel. It turns out I was completely wrong, she is masterful with writing fiction and has tackled square on, challenging historical fiction which takes place across the world during the 19th Century in an era of exploration, botanical discoveries and voyages across the world.
This is an ambitious, pacey and explosive novel that follows the brilliant Alma Whittaker, the daughter of a bold and brash botanical explorer who becomes vastly wealthy through his botanical discoveries. As an adult Alma makes her own intellectual discoveries. It’s her inspiring, inquiring mind and careful analyses of mosses that takes her right to the centre of evolutionary theory during the time of Darwin’s contemporary and rival Alfred Russell Wallace.
This is also a story of romantic love, lust and longing. Although there is no room for corny, overused tropes of the romantic kind in this novel. The emotional dynamics between characters are realistic, visceral and highly believable and the tensions and relationships between characters are highly compelling at all times.
The Signature of All Things takes aim at the big questions of the meaning of existence, the evolution of life, the true nature of love and connection and how when you go looking for something you end up finding something completely different.
This is a universal, epic, sweeping novel and I loved every single second of it. If you love historical fiction, strong female characters and quirky intellectual pursuits then you will love this novel too.