Alma, a woman of science

I have just read a book that has gone straight into my top ten, but explaining why is difficult. My daughter, sending it to me for my birthday, wrote; I really hope you like this book – it’s lots of fun & a bit bonkers, but a very enjoyable story and a brilliant heroine.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things has, above all things, a brilliant heroine.

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I don’t remember a story  so straightforwardly told and yet in which I was continually taken aback by the next turn of the narrative. This sense of being caught in mid-arabesque and sent in another direction persisted to the end of the last printed page – the acknowledgements. This is a long book and I wondered as I started, if I would ever get to the end. There were even moments when I thought, I’m not sure I like this book, yet I kept turning the pages. The narrative style is dry, yet moving; the subject matter is sometimes alarmingly microscopic, yet captivating; the narration is eyebrow-raisingly frank, yet always believable.

It is really a story about human curiosity, it might even be a story about growing old, or it might be a story about all the things that interest the reader most. If I had my way, which of course I won’t, everyone would read it. Almost all women would find great enjoyment here. Women who work in the sciences should search it out and consume it.

Gilbert also wrote the best-selling autobiographical, Eat Pray Love, which seems to have divided readers into lovers and haters. I can’t tell which I will be, but I have a feeling that The Signature of All Things is a very different story. In this one Gilbert has slotted total fiction into a very real and fact-filled part of western history.

Oh, and it’s a garden lover’s paradise too. It more or less starts in Kew Garden and ends in… but I’d hate to be guilty of a spoiler.

Happy Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year or whatever you are celebrating.

Here is a happy Garrya elliptica and some surprised daffodils. I saw winter aconites out in a nearby garden!DSCN8743 - Version 2