5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fabulous book, 25 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Beauty is not required. Beauty is accuracy's distraction."
I was delighted to get an advanced review copy of this book as I love the writing of Elizabeth Gilbert. Readers may be more aware of Elizabeth as the author of Eat, Pray, Love.
This book is a novel and the author's first one for 10 years.
The novel is a historical fiction about the lives of two generations. Of Henry Whittaker and then his daughter Alma Whittaker and of the people in their lives, Alma's strong and no nonsense Dutch mother Beatrice, and her adopted and selfless sister Prudence.
The book deals with the main character's interest and study in botany, with Henry's striving to make his fortune from plants and Alma's deeper interest in what plants and specifically mosses can tell her about how life changes and adapts to cope with alteration of surroundings and circumstances.
Henry comes across as a rather determined and cold character who is desperate to escape his roots in poverty stricken London, he quickly realises he has a talent for knowing an studying plants and using them for both furthering study and also for curing various ills among the population. Henry is extremely successful in his creation of a business and in gathering wealth. Henry spends a period of time in Holland where he meets and then marries Beatrice before setting sail for Philadelphia where there is further money to be made.
Alma is the one surviving child of this union and quickly demonstrates that she possesses the same fierce intellect as her parents. From a young age she is encouraged to listen and converse with various academics and scholars who visit her parents.
Prudence (Alma's adopted sister) is taken in by Beatrice when her parents (who are in the employ of the Whittaker family)die in a domestic incident. Prudence is very different to Alma but strives to be like her sister in all the ways she can while never matching Alma's intellect.
Prudence also possesses a strong desire to help others which Alma struggles to explain when developing her theories of evolution and change. Why if all living things are bound by natural laws to change and adapt for the survival of the species do we have those who selflessly give up significant parts of their lives ...and sometimes even give up their lives for others?
Alma develops her own theories about evolution and change but never publishes because she can never find a meaningful way to explain or understand "the Prudence problem" as she terms it.
Beautifully written book, I had proof copy but the newly published hardback will have beautiful illustrations from what I have seen from the author's website. The proof copy had some sketches to show where these will be and from the novel is discussion of one character who did beautiful pictures and illustrations of orchids which I cant wait to see in the book.
The book and many of the references in the book relate to The Signature of All Things by Henry Boehme which looks at the spiritual and healing properties of plants.
I rarely buy hardback books anymore but have pre-ordered this.
I couldn't put it down and read it in four days...I will read it again.
If you liked Eat, Pray, Love and any of the other books by Elizabeth Gilbert then I feel sure that you will love this one