I was so gripped by this novel that I read it crossing the street, heading from tram to train, and for two days on every tram and train trip I could devise.
The Signature of All Things signals Gilbert’s return to fiction after her successes with the Eat, Pray, Love megalith, and here she recounts the explorations of one Alma Whittaker, a 19th-century female bryologist (or moss specialist). Precocious Alma is raised to astounding wealth in Pennsylvania, analyses the botanical samples of her father’s estate for decades while running the family’s pharmaceutical empire, spends a year in Tahiti in penance for emotional crimes (which I’ll let you discover for yourself), and ends her long life in Amsterdam as the esteemed Keeper of the Mosses at the Hortus Botanicus.
Gilbert’s writing is simply excellent, as ever — fans might also enjoy her too-little-known The Last American Man — and certain passages of this novel are sublime: the constellation scene at the ball and the women’s football match are both unforgettable. The settings in Pennsylvania and Tahiti are richly detailed, and the historical research underpinning the novel seems comprehensive. I thought her characters could have been pushed further out of the realms of cliche than Gilbert managed, and I think she shortchanged her heroine romantically (she deserved better!), but it was still an entirely absorbing and beautiful novel. Splendid, even.
The Signature of Things — Elizabeth Gilbert — Bloomsbury — PB — $30.00
Every time I go to the movies these days that I see a trailer that prompts me to whisper to my friend (or on the odd occasion, stranger) next to me “That was a book first”. This possibly has gotten old very quickly, as it seems the number of movies that were originally books is never-ending! These are a few to keep your eye out for;
Starring the Queen of RomCom Julia Roberts and from the director of Running With Scissors Ryan Murphy comes the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best seller Eat, Pray, Love. Release date: 7th October.
One for the kids; Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series remains a wildly popular title for younger readers. Number one is coming in a movie in September so check out its very cool website here (there’s a trailer there) with your tween now.
The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second in Steig Larrson’s Millenium trilogy is also on its way. The first film was, according to this trailer, the most successful Nordic film of all time so is definitely worth a look in the interim. If you can handle subtitles and enjoy a decidedly un-Hollywood film, keep your eye out for number 2… and hop to it for foreign film bragging rights over your friends (wink).
I’m always a little hesitant about what makes a book suit the silver screen myself, but these days it seems to work more and more often. So whats you’re favourite book-turned-movie?