Book Review: The Signature of All Things

Summer is almost over, and I still have five more books on my Summer Reading Syllabus to review (I’ve read all but one of the books, though).

The book I’m reviewing today is Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. This was the only garden-themed fiction piece that was including in my summer reading. Garden-themed fiction is slim pickings.

I read this book back in July, so I’ve had some time to mull it over. It’s historical fiction, set in the 1800’s, and tells the entire life story of Alma Whitaker, a woman born in America who becomes a botanist.

I’ve never been a big fan of historical fiction, but I found that aspect of the book actually one of my favorite parts. It paints a picture of America, gardening technology, and the exploration of the plant world in the early-to-mid 1800s. And, although the subject matter was historical, the writing style was very modern.

Overall, I would probably give this books 2.5 or 3 stars out of 5. The writing was excellent and kept me reading, but some of the content didn’t sit well with me. This book was very long – it really did tell the entire life story of a woman – and contained many substories. Some substories were incredibly engaging and I sped through them, but others were tedious. She develops rich characters, but then seems to abandon some of them I found myself annoyed by several themes of the book, including the love triangles and how Gilbert portrays female desire/desirability, to name just a couple.

In the end, I was too annoyed with all the (in my opinion) bad decisions the protagonist, Alma, made to truly enjoy this enjoy this book. While I cannot recommend this book, don’t let my review stop you from picking it up if you are curious. The writing is excellent (really), and perhaps the content will be more up your alley. Several literary critics and 30,000+ readers on goodreads disagree with me and perhaps you’ll be among them.

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