- Fritzi Newton
What I’m about to say will be blasphemy to many of you. I DIDN’T like…no, actually, I hated Elizabeth’s Gilbert best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love. BUT, before you vow to never again read one of my blog posts, let me quickly assure you that I wholeheartedly embrace her latest epic offering, The Signature of All Things.
Englishman Henry Whittaker was born into a dirt-poor family. By combining an innate entrepreneurial spirit with an equally impressive knowledge of botany, Whittaker succeeds in amassing an early fortune. He and his Dutch-born wife move to Philadelphia where they build an opulent estate, and Henry assumes a position as one of America’s richest men.
Their daughter Alma, born in 1800, is blessed with every gift except beauty. Hers is an inquisitive mind with a corresponding stellar intelligence. Her family’s astounding wealth offers her unparalleled freedom, and neither her father nor her mother see the need to shelter their daughter from any educational concept, no matter how advanced. At a young age, she regularly dines with recognized scholars.
Like her father, it’s Alma’s reverence for the natural world that sustains her through life’s adventures and tragedies. She zeroes in on the intricacies of mosses, writing numerous treatises and becoming an internationally-recognized expert on Bryophyta. Her lifelong studies, in fact, will eventually place her on the level of one of the most controversial scientific minds of the time – Charles Darwin.
But I’m remiss if I’ve led you to believe that Gilbert’s novel is dry. Alma has her struggles with family and romantic encounters. And, the exotic travel she sees will have you scrambling to pack your bags. For me though, it’s Gilbert’s infectious passion for the native flora in The Signature of All Things that kept me glued to the pages.