I have only read one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books: Eat, Pray, Love, a memoir gifted to me. This #1 New York Times Bestseller fell somewhat short of my expectations. After I saw the movie version with Julia Roberts, I came around a bit. Now I am ready to try Ms. Gilbert’s fiction.
The Signature of All Things (2013), Elizabeth Gilbert’s new historical novel, inhabits 512 pages and two centuries. It follows the Whittaker family from the childhood of the self-made father, Henry, through the adult life of the talented and brilliant daughter, Alma. It is a story of love, adventure, and scientific discovery, peopled with noteworthy characters, that spans the globe.
According to The Seattle Times’ Melinda Bargreen: “This detailed, researched and rather austere historical novel is nothing like Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love.” For some Gilbert fans, this is bad news; for other readers who resoundingly disliked “Eat, Pray, Love” for its bottomless self-absorption, it is a relief to encounter Gilbert’s unattractive but brainy and venturesome botanist heroine.”
The New York Times’ Janet Maslin has this to say: “Alma knows nothing of heroines other than herself. She would never have read the 19th-century equivalent of Ms. Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Since she has no interest in fiction, she might sniff at “The Signature of All Things,” too. But many other people will be drawn to Alma’s vigor, resilience and moxie and excited by her love of knowledge, not to mention her attunement to the erotica of the botanical world.”
You must decide how much of a detour this novel is from Ms. Gilbert’s previous work, and whether or not the journey is fruitful. I look forward to it.