The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Imagine my delight when I came across Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book: a novel! I enjoyed her memoir Eat, Pray, Love (who didn't?) and liked her marriage book, Committed. But I love The Signature of All Things.
In Gilbert's novel, the Whittaker family deals in botanicals. First Henry Whittaker, born in England in the 1700s, apprentices at the hand of famous botanists and learns which plants can be used for medicinal purposes. In his late teens and early 20s, Henry absorbs what his teachers impart as well as learns on his own ways to import (smuggle) plants from far off lands for his own gain. Henry gets rich.
Henry lands in Pennsylvania, but returns to Europe to find a Dutch wife who is practical and intelligent. He finds Beatrix, who knows about everything. This combination of strong parents brings Alma Whittaker into the world in 1800. Alma is like a sponge and learns languages and her father's world of science, both hands on and through the vast library her father acquires because he merely wants to add to his library. He doesn't want to read the books.
This story moves at a good pace and holds the reader's interest through the somewhat technical writing of the world of botany. It's never boring or too much, and is interspersed with humor in some of the most unlikely places.
The title intrigued me, so I looked up this phrase: the signature of all things.
Here's a bit of information about the title of this book. According to a summary of the book by the same name by German author Jacob Boehme, published in 1621, the law of signatures is "the concept that every object in the real world has some hidden meaning and particularly how these signatures interact."
More great books for when you've finished reading The Signature of All Things.
I recently read The Goldfinch and must say it was one of the best books I've ever read!
This novel by Jeannette Walls, the author of The Glass Castle, is fabulous!
You can't go wrong with a novel by Ann Patchett.