This book is well-written and extremely interesting. The story begins in the late 1700s with the first twenty years of Henry Whittaker's life, as well as the entire eighty years of his daughter, the main character, Alma. They are fascinating people, and the times as well as the settings are wrought in expert detail. I was astonished at the effort Gilbert put into it.
The subtext (if not the theme) of the book is evolution, both biological and sociological, and I think the reason Gilbert went into so much detail, however well-crafted and entertaining, was to demonstrate various aspects of evolution - or the resolute lack thereof - in of each of her characters. Thus we follow the lives of Alma, her father, her mother, Prudence, the insane friend, the insane husband, the Tahitian missionary, the Tahitian missionary's son, et. al. And I'm just getting started. Even Roger the dog evolves in order to triumph at life. Okay, I'm kidding about him. Sort of.
I'm not going to describe the entire book. Plenty of other readers will do that. However, I will say that there is a transcendent scene toward the end, when Alma and another scientist/big thinker debate the evolutionary logic of altruism. I was entranced by this unanswerable question and their discussion of it. However, that was just the icing on the cake. The main takeaway of the story, for me, was that we all have a chance to live our biggest life possible, if only we try as hard as we can and never, never let ourselves weaken. It's an empowering theme. I recommend this book, with the caveat that the evolved reader manage its length by discreetly skimming, thus saving her energy for the rest of life's battles.
What an incredible journey. Elisabeth Gilbert's use of language is a performance in itself. This novel , to me, is powerful writing. How many of us could stay so true to a character, while writing in desuet english. Through the entire time, my first language being French, I felt sorry for the book's future translator. Because of Gilbert's wonderful ability to convey emotions and personality through a precise choice of words and images. What a trip, what a treat. I admire the work done here. I was looking forward to come back to Alma's rigor and charm. I enjoyed every effort and once of talent sprinkled through this ambitious novel. A must read.
On m'a offert ce livre que j'ai commencé à lire avec un a priori très négatif. J'avais vu le film tiré de son précédent livre "Eat, Pray, Love" et je l'avais trouvé d'une insupportable niaiserie. Quelle ne fut pas ma surprise devant la qualité de l'écriture : une langue précise, élégante, fluide. L'héroïne est formidable dans tous les sens du terme et j'ai refermé ce livre avec un sentiment d'élévation rarement éprouvé ces dix dernières années.
Elizabeth Gilbert obviously achieved the quality of writing he set out to accomplish in writing this story. The book came out with a touch of finesse that is amazing. Though Alma, she set the pace of a series of characters that made the story so rich, deep and encompassing. And the amazing thing is that she weaved these wonderful characters into a fascinating plot and setting with sublime ingenuity, so that the end result is a smooth read that effortlessly brought me to the end of the story. The Signature of All Things comes in line with Janvier Chando's Splendid Comets, and Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement as insightful and rich stories I recently enjoyed reading.
Très bien écrit, sur plus de 500 pages.. A recommander à tous les amateurs de botanique (l'auteur s'est beaucoup documentée, bravo, pas d'erreurs dans les noms botaniques). De belles études de caractères et des voyages au 18e siècle d'un continent à l'autre - i.e. plusieurs mois de voyage par bateau dans des conditions difficiles - j'ai trouvé ce livre passionnant, avec peut-être quelques longueurs par moments mais d'autres lecteurs ne les verraient probablement pas aux mêmes passages.
Dear Ms Gilbert, I feel compelled to write to you today because I'm feeling rather bereft after turning the last pages of The Signature of all Things and leaving Alma at the tree. I have seldom had that sensation during my fitfy-odd years of reading. Last time I was as loath to leave the company of a character was after closing War and Peace in my teenage years, and crying at my loss. This book is a wonder of character building. I wonder if you have described what you had to hand as raw materials? I saw the micro-film about your visiting the original house - but did Alma have a personal journal or the like so you could see so closely into her soul and emotions? Or did you invent her internal conversations? Anyway bravo, bravo, bravo. I especially love the so mystical section in Tahiti with TM. Thank you, can't imagine what a huge work of research this must have been. Funnily enough, I have been trying to get some mosses to grow and stick here in my new home in France. I think I'll change my approach.
Encore une fois, Elizabeth Gilbert m'époustoufle : elle décrit la vie de la fille d'un des premiers vendeurs de médicaments (d'abord des plantes) aux Etats-Unis à large échelle. Tout ceci est fictif. Cette femme est d'une intelligence très vive, a un physique ingrat, peu lui importe ou presque, elle étudie magnifiquement, succède à son père, est féministe intimement, connaît l'amour contrarié et je n'en dirai pas plus, s'entrechoque avec des personnalités, soeur, amis... Part à Tahiti, et là c'est la description d'un peuple étonnant, d'un missionnaire, de leur vie... Elle est capable de rebondir, d'inciter les autres à le faire... Jubilatoire.
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce livre qui mèle l'histoire et le voyage intérieur de ses personnages. Un bouquin qui se lit très rapidement, l'écriture est fluide...un vrai bonheur. Je suis rarement déçue par cet auteur.