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


Pedants revolt – honing, homing and homing in (and waterlilies).

Sorry, I have to get this off my chest.

Honing = to sharpen

Homing = to (instinctively) return to the nest

Homing in = to converge on


You hone your knife on a whetstone, or your critical faculties on a course in logic.

You home, after you have delivered your message, to the loft – you are a pigeon.

You home in on a solution after racking your brains.

And yes, I know, the misuse of honing is now so common that it will probably be accepted soon, but you can’t sharpen in on something, it does make sense and please think of pedants like me who get a pain in the head every time they see it.

Rant over. Some soothing waterlilies from Kew Gardens to follow.

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