Judging all of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s books based on her Eat, Pray, Love was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made – especially since I haven’t even read Eat, Pray, Love. After reading The Signature of All Things, one thing is for sure, Gilbert can write. The Signature of All Things is a dense and multi-layered piece of literary fiction that puts the reputation of Eat, Pray, Love to shame.
I was convinced to read The Signature of All Things after so many people I respect in the blogging community told me it was worthwhile. It tells the long story of a woman botanist in the early 19th century. That was the hook that got me and sustained me through the book.
I had conceived of it as more of a travel story, and while she does venture forth to the South Pacific, for at least two thirds of the book she remains at her sprawling family home.
Who would like this book? The Signature of All Things is for historical fiction fans. The protagonist is an unconventional character in a time when women were meant to be highly conventional. Seeing how she negotiates her status is one of the major themes of the book. There is also a lot of engagement with theories of biology and evolution of the time. And of course, Darwin makes an appearance. So those interested in intellectual history will also like this book.
While I didn’t read Eat, Pray, Love, I definitely went into this one with some preconceived notions, but was so pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely a favorite.
I think it’s bad for us to think of Gilbert purely in terms of E,P,L. She’s written a great deal of fiction and if this is anything to go by, it is pretty good stuff.
When I finally read The Signature of All Things, I think I’m going to feel the same way! Although I had actually read Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Stern Men (before Eat, Pray, Love hit the big time) and that was a totally different type of book from Eat, Pray, Love.
I think i will probably give something else by Gilbert a try at some point and I’ve been hearing good things about Stern Men,
I will definitely admit that I’ve been hesitant to pick this up because I had tried reading E, P, L so many years ago and was never able to finish. This does sound quite interesting though. What a great reminder that we shouldn’t judge a book by its author’s previous works 😉
It may not be my favorite book, but it is quality.
This has been on my list since it came out. I have liked whatever I have read of hers, and even if I didn’t know anything about the author, the historical and scientific aspects of a female botanist in the 19th century really appeal to me. I’m glad you liked it. And, it’s also good to be reminded that I haven’t read it yet- these things can easily get overlooked!
My overall hesitation about the book at this point is more to do with the fact that i don’t love historical fiction. Aside from that, i highly recommend it.
I have to admit that I did read Eat, Pray, Love — and while I hated most of the book, I did appreciate Gilbert’s ability to write pretty sentences. This book definitely sounds like it’s more my speed.
She realky can write.
Having read and disliked Eat, Pray, Love, I too judged Gilbert as one of the “don’t try this again” authors. However, the praise for The Signature of All Things has been very positive and the story really sounds like something that I’d enjoy reading, so I’ll most definitely give Gilbert another go.
I think my position on Gilbert may be to read her fiction, but not her non-fiction.
I’m glad you finally tried this one. It was my favourite read last year 🙂
I never read Eat Pray, Love, but I am tempted to, if only to see why everyone hates it so much!
I’m really glad i read it too. Even if it didn’t rank among my favorites, it is a quality piece of literary fiction. And did i mention that I had to look up a fair number of words as well? Always a good sign.
I’m the same as you – need to take off the judgey-pants and be open to Elizabeth Gilbert. I didn’t finish Eat, Pray, Love – soooooo self-indulgent it was unbearable. But like you, have heard only good things about this one.
I find most memoirs to be on the self-indulgent side.
I’ve never really thought about reading this book, but I do love historical fiction so maybe I should try it. The protagonist sounds like an interesting character.
Thanks for sharing this! I had a similar thought – I wasn’t very interested in reading this book because I really didn’t enjoy Eat, Pray, Love. But I do like historical fiction and I like the idea of an unconventional woman character. I may have to give it a try!
Don’t let any preconceptions of Gilbert stand in your way. It is great historical fiction.
I think a lot of people have been hesitant about this one for that reason! Although I did read her book Committed (also non-fiction) and I loved it. Sounds a but like State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, which was wonderful, aside from her habit of giving you a disappointing ending. I will keep an open mind about this one!
I thought it was going to be like State of Wonder too, but it isn’t really at all. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. It just is.
Thanks for reminding me of this one! I haven’t hunted for a sale copy nearly hard enough. Cheap, but determined, is me.
I’m with you. There is nothing I love more than finding a good book for cheap!
This is one of my favorites from the last couple of years. I thought it was so well done 😀 I’m glad you liked it!
I think a story of a 19th century botanist would interest me, but does it come off too lengthy?
It is a really long book and as with most long books I felt it could have been about 150 pages shorter.
I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, but I didn’t think it was anything special so I didn’t go out of my way to pick this up. You’ve convinced me I should though! I did like her writing style and it would be fun to see what she can do in the literary fiction genre.