Natalie's Reviews > The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
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Dec 03, 13

** spoiler alert ** Ambitious is the first word I think of with this novel. There were many times during my reading when I felt Gilbert nailed the intersection for which she was aiming: tension between science and the divine; strong heroine journey; historical development of science in the 1800s-- particularly women in botany; love triangles; father/mother/sister complexes; writing style born of Dickens-Austen-Alcott; and, a plethora of travel and transformation metaphors (Gilbert's evolution from "Eat, Pray, Love" is evident on at least half the book's 500 pages). I found myself dog-earring passages to re-read and taking notes for my own life....suffice it to say, I enjoyed the book. However, it falls long-winded in parts and can feel like Gilbert's trying a bit too hard. I loved when Alma started traveling, but I also felt a hole in the novel where the story of Prudence and the school at White Acre should have been. Prudence's story was as fascinating as Alma's in some ways and I can sense a lovely novel spinning from Prudence's journey when Alma left for Tahiti. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed how connected I felt to Elizabeth Gilbert's creative process and am inspired to tackle writing a historical fiction novel of my own!
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Reading Progress

10/14/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Qi (new)

Qi Great review; certainly piqued my interest to read this novel in the near future.

Natalie I'm curious what you'll think of it, Qi. You are much more well-read with classic literature than I am, so you may find it trying a bit too hard. I especially felt this with the female sexuality theme -- sometimes Gilbert hit it spot-on; other times, it felt forced. Keep me posted on your reading.

message 3: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Despite long-winded in parts and trying too hard, five stars. Hmm.

Natalie Jerry wrote: "Despite long-winded in parts and trying too hard, five stars. Hmm."

Absolutely. We all have a different method of using the "stars" for our book -- and I did debate between 4 or 5 stars here; 4 was just too few. This book means a huge amount to me thanks to the internal shifts that happened as as result of Gilbert's creativity. I'm not looking for a perfect literary book -- so long-winded and trying too hard at times is fine for me. I'm looking for something to creatively shift my life's foundation. This book did that. :)

It may not be popular with everyone to allow emotion to tie in with book reviews, and that's ok with me. :) I think emotion ties into everything.

message 5: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Kronick I am only one fifth of the way through my more than 800 page large print edition of this delightful novel. I shall attempt another comment upon completing my reading. However, I paused at this point (Rhetta Snow has just entered the story) for two reasons. First, to discover if, like "Eat, Pray, Love" we will see a screen version of this narrative. Second, to find out if the generally discerning members of this website are as enchanted with the elegant prose of Elizabeth Gilbert as am I. N'est-ce pas?

Shelley I agree, I felt myself longing to know more about the fascinating Prudence--loved the book, but that thought did cross my mind as well.

Amanda I love the idea of a Prudence story!

Julie I was trying to formulate my own enthusiastic review, but this one hit the nail on the head. I couldn't quite wrap my brain around the whole Tomorrow Morning character, and I found myself searching for clues as to his "real" meaning à la Life of Pi. In fact, the obsession of the quim and the need to taste a man was out of my comfort zone. I was glad my kids were out of town as I listened to this on audiobook, and I found myself blushing at a few parts of the narrative (and trust me, I'm not easily embarrassed) when it seemed like I was reading a soft porn novel. That being said, I really enjoyed this book for more reasons than I can list.

Marianne I loved the book for the same reasons... But it gets 4 stars, because of Prudence...

Donna A spin-off of the Prudence story is a fabulous idea! So true!

message 11: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate Beautiful review. I am just surprised that a book tangentially exploring the origins of species even kept my interest for 500 pages. Gilbert is very talented at weaving the science and the serendipity.

message 12: by Kay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kay Mccormick Natalie, Very good point about Prudence. Another storyline could definitely be developed. There is enough mystery about Prudence's character to fill in the blanks with a whole other novel.

message 13: by Rona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rona Silverstein I agree about Prudence!

Sherry Royer What an amazing book! Elizabeth Gilbert continues to have more and more to say about the human condition, and I'm so grateful to continue to reap the benefits of her journey. This book resonated with me on so many levels, particularly the question of how altruism and sacrifice benefit society. As a social worker, I have long examined the role we "helpers" play in this competitive, "dog eat dog" world, and I'm at peace with the answers I have found. I hope Alma, as she rested against the old tree at the end of this book, arrived at them, too.

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