Review first posted on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-signature-of-all-things.html
The Signature of All Things starts with Henry Whittaker, a poor but enterprising young man who makes his living as a thief. He gets caught, but is allowed leeway because of the respect people have for his father. He is put to work, and through his work and some shady dealings becomes a very wealthy man. The bulk of the book is about his daughter Alma.
Alma is an only child living a rather secluded life. She develops an interest in botany, and her specialty becomes, of all things, mosses. Along the way, discoveries come into and change her life. The book has much description of her discovery of and secret use of a text on sexual pleasure and of her work with plants. Along the way, people come in and out of her life. Prudence is adopted in to the family and becomes a sister until a rift drives them apart. Ambrose is the artist who steals her heart but is unable to be a husband to her. Along the way, places come in and out of her life. White Acres with its large indoor botanical gardens is the Whittaker estate in England. Alma also travels the world, some for botanical research and some searching for the people in her life.
I am not even sure where to start with this book. Given the previous writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, I expected a lot more. This book is slow moving and difficult to read - boring with a set of unlikable characters. The most interesting component of the book is probably some of the descriptions of the natural world and plant life. However, if that's what I want to read, I would pick a nonfiction book about the topic. If this had not been a review copy, I would have abandoned the book. However, I did read it and am left wondering .... What was the point?
*** Reviewed for GoodReads First Reads program ***
This was an interesting read. The story line is very plausible and it kept me moving forward, wanting to know what happened next. I learned quite a bit about nature, especially about mosses, and other plants and about cultural mores in the 19th century. I was a bit surprised at some of the sexual themes, so I would not share this book with young teenagers. Which, to me, is a shame because there is so much more to recommend it.